Potter Returns With Cash to Save the Box Office

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for November 18-20, 2005

By John Hamann

November 20, 2005

No, Ron. You're not *that* ugly.

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With a weekend gross that almost beat last weekend's entire top ten, Harry Potter has single-handedly saved the box office, at least for a couple of weeks. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire grossed a huge $101.4 million this weekend, and second place finisher Walk The Line didn't do too shabbily either. The rest of the top ten was ravaged this weekend, as its comparisons to the last frame were heightened due to last Friday being the Veteran's Day Holiday.

Let's start with a Harry Potter history lesson. The first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone opened on Friday, November 16, 2001 and started what's become one of the most lucrative franchises of all time. The first book translated its big-time buzz into an opening of $90.3 million (over $96 million in today's dollars) from 3,672 venues. It was at $187 million after ten days, and finished with a domestic total of $317.6 million, which is about $339 million in today's dollars. It had an opening to total multiplier of 3.52. A year later, over the same weekend, Warner Bros released Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This one opened to $88.4 million from 3,682 venues, after finding $29.6 million on its first Friday. The opening adjusted for inflation equals $91.9 million. Chamber of Secrets finished with $262 million ($272.4 in today's dollars) and had an opening-to-total multiplier of 2.97. Maybe trying to shake things up a bit, WB released Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in June of 2004. It got 3,855 venues and grossed $93.7 million over its first three days. Its total came in at $249.5 million, and carried a smaller multiplier of 2.66, mostly due to the summer release date. A good guess for the opening of Harry Potter 4 would be somewhere between $88 and $95 million, as so far, Harry's been somewhat predictable over opening weekend.


With expectations remaining below $100 million, it's a pleasant surprise this morning that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire opened to $101.4 million from 3,858 venues. It had a venue average of $26,289 and a weekend multiplier of 2.85 using a $35.6 million Friday figure. That's the fourth biggest opening of all-time, and the biggest debut ever for the month of November – a true coup for the folks at Warner Bros. Why the increase over the previous Potter films? The marketing for Goblet of Fire was carried out very well. Fire breathing dragons and teen superheroes are easy to market, and WB was thankful to get a ton of free media coverage as well. In addition, the release of the last book was a huge event, bigger than any of the other books in the series. The popularity of the series is obviously still growing, despite the fact that its original target is now in their late teens or early 20s. Instead of that target audience outgrowing the series, they still embrace it, which means the Harry Potter Army will only grow and grow and grow. Good reviews were another huge factor in this opening, and the reviews of its predecessors. This is a series of films that has never stumbled critically, and leaves its audience always wanting more. Of the 141 reviews Goblet of Fire got at RottenTomatoes, only 18 were of the negative variety, giving the Mike Newell film a very fresh rating of 87%. The huge opening still may translate into lower total box office overall, but even with an opening-to-total multiplier of 2.6 (less or equal to that of its predecessors) this entry into the Potter series would see a domestic total of $263.7 million. That would make it the biggest Potter film since the first, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Second place is another surprise to the upside this weekend, as the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line debuted with a very strong $22.4 million. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon turned fantastic reviews and more big media coverage into a great opening, as the flick was even able to best last year's Ray, which opened to $20 million from 2,006 venues. Walk the Line opened at 2,961 venues and had an average of $7,565, well below Ray's $9,990 due to the venue discrepancy. Another similarity that Walk the Line has with Ray is reviews. Ray had 34 bad reviews out of a possible 182 for a 81% fresh rating. Walk the Line had 21 negative reviews out of a possible 117 for an 82% fresh rating. Ray had an opening-to-total multiplier of 3.57, so if Walk the Line finds the same, it could end up with $80 million at the domestic box office, most likely about twice its production budget.

As expected, Chicken Little nosedived into third this weekend, but you can't blame it all on Harry Potter. After two weekends at number one, Chicken Little slid hard this weekend, grossing only $14.8 million, down a nasty 53%. Don't forget that last Friday was a holiday, and it artificially boosted the numbers for kids flicks and family films. Chicken Little now sits with $99.2 million in the kitty, and will finish with at least $160 million via domestic box office. It will have another strong weekend over Thanksgiving, but after that, this Chicken is a turkey.

Derailed continues to surprise as it finishes fourth, down only one spot from last weekend. The Jennifer Aniston/Clive Owen flick grossed another $6.5 million in its second weekend, down 47% from its opening frame, which is the second-lowest drop in the top ten behind limited release Pride and Prejudice. Derailed has nicely flown under the radar, and after two weekends has earned back its production budget of about $20 million. Derailed, the first release from the Weinstein Company, now sits with $21.8 million so far.

Zathura is another film thrown for a loop this weekend versus Potter and Veteran's Day. Zathura, from Columbia Pictures, grossed only $5.1 million in its second weekend, down a huge 62% from last weekend. All of a sudden, the $65 million production is now in serious trouble, as it sits with only $20.3 million at the domestic box office.

Finishing sixth this weekend is Jarhead, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. After a fantastic opening frame, Jarhead has slid fairly hard despite fair reviews. In its third weekend, the $27.7 million opener grossed $4.8 million, down a tough 59% from last weekend. The Sam Mendes flick from Universal Pictures has a total now of $54.3 million against a budget of about $80 million.

Seventh goes to Get Rich or Die Tryin', starring Fitty Cent. Get Rich didn't make distributor Paramount too happy or too rich, as the film earned $4.4 million in its second weekend, down a nasty 64%. Get Rich now sits with $24.5 million and looks like it will have a tough time reaching $35 million, which is bad news for a film with a production cost around $40 million.

Saw II continues to cut into the competition even after four weekends of release. The Lions Gate release turned in $3.9 million worth of receipts this weekend, down 57% from the previous frame. The $4 million production has now earned $79.9 million, and looks to finish just shy of $100 million.

The Legend of Zorro manages to hold onto a top ten spot this weekend, as the Sony film finishes ninth in its third weekend. Zorro grossed $2.3 million this weekend, down an embarrassing 64% from the previous frame. The unnecessary sequel now has a domestic total of $42.8 million.

Tenth goes to Pride and Prejudice from Focus Features. Out to only 221 venues, the period piece grossed $2.1 million, down only 26% from last weekend. Not including Pride, the average drop this weekend was 58%, so you can see how positive this weekend's score is for Keira Knightley flick. Pride now sits with a domestic total of $6 million, and has already earned over $40 million overseas. Not bad for a film that cost its studio only $28 million to make.

Overall this weekend, the box office finally gets ahead of last year's totals, thanks mostly to Harry Potter and Johnny Cash. The top ten films at the box office this weekend earned a hearty $168 million, well ahead of last year's top ten, which earned about $139 million.

Top Ten for Weekend of November 18-20, 2005
of Sites
Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 3,858 New $101.4 $101.4
2 Walk the Line 2,961 New $22.4 $22.4
3 Chicken Little 3,514 -53% $14.8 $99.2
4 Derailed 2,447 -47% $6.5 $21.8
5 Zathura 3,232 -62% $5.1 $20.3
6 Jarhead 2,413 -59% $4.8 $54.3
7 Get Rich or Die Tryin' 1,666 -64% $4.4 $24.5
8 Saw II 2,257 -57% $3.9 $79.9
9 The Legend of Zorro 2,150 -64% $2.3 $42.8
10 Pride and Prejudice 221 -26% $2.1 $6.0



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