Harry Potter not making it to $300 million?

John Hamann's Weekend Wrap-Up

December 2, 2001

Harry Potter hit the brakes hard this weekend after beginning its box office life by setting records for its opening and for the five-day Thanksgiving holiday. Many prognosticators thought Harry would cruise past a few more records before settling into mediocrity. Originally considered to be the fastest film to $200 million, Potter now makes one wonder just where it will end up.

The question becomes: is Warner Bros. all that upset about this weekend’s gross? Probably not.

Now, before you read the drop-off, please consider that this weekend historically carries big weekend drops. It’s unavoidable. Consider that we are coming off the US Thanksgiving holiday where virtually every kid is out of school Thursday through Sunday, Potter was due to have a precipitous drop, but what would WB deem as acceptable?

Last year, the high-powered Grinch dropped 48% in its post-Thanksgiving weekend, drawing $27 million after a Thanksgiving gross of $52 million. In 1999, Toy Story 2 had a 52% drop compared to its Thanksgiving holiday. As we can see, it would be a fairly logical assumption that Warner Bros. would be looking for a 45-50% drop for Potter given its pedigree and possibility for repeat viewing.

So how bad was it?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone grossed $24.05 million for first place at the weekend box office, a drop of 58% compared to its Thanksgiving gross of $57.4 million. Potter is still on a massive 3,672 screens, and had a screen average of $6,550. Its total now stands at $220.1 million, good for a spot in the top thirty on the all-time box office chart.

The 58% drop is rough news for the film but may not be such a bad thing for the studio, as it has a busy upcoming year with Mr. Potter. By opening on such a large number of screens, WB was betting on the big start followed by what may be considered to be questionable legs. If Potter had opened with a similar pattern as Titanic and shown the similar growth from weekend to weekend, the film would have run until March and WB would not have been able to capitalize on what will probably be two home video releases before the next Harry Potter flick invades theaters next November. This way, Potter will leave theatres by the end of January, WB will release the home video by Easter and will probably issue a special edition with a trailer before the summer ends, building the desire of kids to a furor level once more by next November.

With a current gross of $220 million, Potter should follow normal trending over the next of couple of weekends: The weekend of December 7th should see a 35% drop from this weekend’s gross, plus very small weekday numbers for a total of $235 million. Smaller drops of 25% should follow over the next two weekends, bringing the total to $250 million. Around the Christmas holiday, it should pick up for a couple of weeks, then it will pretty much die in the new year. The final gross looks to be in the $300-$310 million range, easily placing it into the top ten of all time and giving Harry a big green light for future grosses.

Second spot goes to the new release, Behind Enemy Lines. The well-positioned flick opened to $19.2 million on 2,768 screens across North America for a screen average of $6,931. This is quite a coup for Fox, because before September 11th, the studio had a film that had no marquee stars and a release date in the quiet box office month of January. After the tragedy, they now had a timely war piece that reflected American patriotism. Fox made the smart move and shifted the film to its current release date where it opened alone, the only downside being a historically quiet weekend for movies. Fox again proved that while the release date is an important consideration, it is not necessarily ‘the kiss of death’ for movies and box office. Until BEL, no studio had opened a film on the weekend after Thanksgiving since Psycho opened poorly on December 4, 1998.

With Behind Enemy Lines, Fox continues an up and down year that has hit highs with Planet of the Apes but has been offset with disasters like Monkeybone, Say it Isn’t So, and Glitter. The move from January 2002 to November 2001 will certainly help this year’s bottom line for 20th Century Fox.

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Will the war movie make a comeback now that it is the subject of so many conversations? The genre has actually made some very nice box office coin over the last few years with blockbuster releases like Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbor. These days the media is really keying on these type of films, helping them to break out even further at the box office. Black Hawk Down, the upcoming film from Ridley Scott, will combine realism and war, testing the appetite of North American movie-goers for more down to earth war footage than Behind Enemy Lines. Black Hawk is already being referenced on CNN, and will make a two-city debut in December in order to qualify for this year’s Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, then open wide in January.

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE movie like '%Pearl Harbor%' OR movie like '%Saving Private Ryan%' OR movie like '%Captain Corelli%' " sqlstr = sqlstr + " OR movie like '%Enemy at the Gates%' OR movie like 'Traffic' OR movie like '%Men of Honor%' OR movie like '%Patriot, The%' " sqlstr = sqlstr + " OR movie like '%Three Kings%' ORDER BY open DESC" max = 100 header = "Recent war-themed releases" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

Third this week goes to Spy Game, the espionage Redford-Pitt vehicle from Universal Films. Spy Game grossed $11.2 million this weekend on 2,770 screens; it had a screen average of $4,043. Universal had to be upset when Fox moved Behind Enemy Lines to this weekend. Originally Spy Game faced competition from only two films aimed at the under-20 set but with the arrival of Behind Enemy Lines, Universal knew the adult male demographic would be fragmented.. For the studio, a lot hinges on the second weekend gross, as drop-offs become somewhat predictable once these receipts are counted. All things considered, Spy Game did hold up well with a 48% drop off and the film’s box office total now stands at $46.9 million.

Fourth this weekend is the quiet mammoth, Monsters, Inc. It has lived under Harry Potter’s shadow since HP was released, but had performed well given the scope of the competition. In its fifth weekend, Monsters grossed $9.41 million from a still potent 3,390 screens. The weekend-to-weekend drop was 61%, but one must consider that it lost over 250 screens from the holiday period. The current tally for Monsters is $204.3 million and the Disney flick should still perform quite well right up to and through the Christmas season. With some small drops over the next few weeks leading up to the holidays, Monsters, Inc. still stands a chance of seeing $250 million.

From fifth spot on down, the box office was really slow. During this time of year, parents are shopping and kids are doing kid things (obviously one of these things is going to the movies), so business drops off after the Thanksgiving weekend. This year was no different. Fifth and sixth spot were very close between two similar films, The Black Knight, the Fox flop-in-the-making with Martin Lawrence, and Shallow Hal, the Fox semi-hit. Fifth went to Knight, which dropped 49% and grossed $5.7 million and sixth went to Hal which dropped 45%, grossing $4.65 million. On paper, Black Knight looks like the winner, but Hal looks to end up with about $70 million and Knight will clear out at about $30 million. There current totals are $23 million for Knight, and $61.2 million for Shallow Hal.

Seventh went to Out Cold, which is out in the cold, grossing $2.9 million. Sadly, Out Cold was probably a great investment for Buena Vista, as it now has $10.5 million in box office revenue on its way to $15 million, but the real money will come on home video. Hopefully, this is not the re-birth of the moronic ski movie. Maybe the second weekend drop of about 60% will scare off any copycats.

Eighth spot went to Travolta’s Domestic Disturbance, still trolling along with $1.9 million on 1,850 screens. The total for the Paramount thriller stands at $42.4 million.

It’s a complete pleasure to announce that the French film Amélie has broken into the top ten. The quietly strong foreign release grossed $1.4 million from 218 screens, for a screen average of $6,422. Word of mouth is obviously growing for this Miramax title as it brings its box office total to $7.2 million. Look for further expansion into your market in the weeks to come.

Tenth spot went to The Heist which grossed $1.23 million, bringing its total to $22 million.

Limited releases this weekend included the most likely awful Texas Rangers which grossed $300,000 from 401 screens for a venue average of $746. Also opening limited was The Affair of the Necklace which grossed $136,000 from 18 screens for an average of $7,656.

Due in large part to the release of Behind Enemy Lines this weekend, the top 12 box office grossed $81.36 million, down 1.2% over the same period last year. Compared to the obviously bigger Thanksgiving weekend last week, box office was down 42.8%.

Next week, Warner Bros. will continue to increase its staggering grosses on the year as Ocean’s 11 opens on over 2,700 screens. It will be very interesting to see how much this movie can gross given the pedigree of the stars involved. Check out BOP’s release schedule for all the films opening in December.

Top 10 for Weekend of November 30 - December 2, 2001
Number of Sites
Change in Sites from Last
Estimated Gross ($)
Cumulative Gross ($)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Behind Enemy Lines
Spy Game
Monsters, Inc.
Black Knight
Shallow Hal
Domestic Disturbance



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