Harry Potter Rules All

John Hamann's Weekend Wrap-Up

November 18, 2001

If you listen closely, you can hear records breaking. For film, Harry Potter turned this quiet pre-Thanksgiving November weekend into one of the biggest box office weekends in history. Potter blew away the record for biggest opening weekend ever and left a spot on the box office history map that analysts will look back on for years to come.

The Friday gross for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was so big they needed to make numerous estimates. The first of these was actually filed before the end of the day on Friday when Variety reported the Friday gross between $25 and $30 million; then, on Saturday morning we heard $29.45 million from a few different sources. On Saturday afternoon, Warner Bros. stepped in with an estimate of $31.3 million. Now on Sunday morning, EDI is reporting a final number of $31.6 million. No matter what the Friday gross, analysts knew Potter was destined for history since Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace had previously held the record for biggest opening day gross with a sum of $28.54 million.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone grossed a record $93.52 million (estimated) over the three day weekend, giving it a phenomenal screen average of $25,467 from its 3,672 venues. Even with Potter being exhibited in a historic number of venues, it still beat the screen averages of The Lost World ($21,985) and The Phantom Menace ($21,822). Harry Potter also breaks the opening weekend record set by The Lost World ($72 million over the three-day portion of its opening weekend), and sets a new record for Warner Bros. and a record for films opening in November.

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Saturday was the key day for Harry Potter. Would it be able to maintain the historic pace it had on Friday on a weekend day when kids were not in school and able to hit the matinees? Would midnight showings on Thursday night cause the Friday figure to be bigger than the Saturday figure? It turns out that Saturday was pretty much flat compared to Friday, with early estimates coming in at the $32.88 million range for Saturday, giving it an internal multiplier (the weekend gross of 93.5 divided by the Friday gross of 31.3) of 2.99. Depending on which estimate you believe, this means that Harry Potter outdid the opening weekend of Monsters, Inc. before theatres opened for Sunday business. The numbers don’t completely make sense though. The estimate for Sunday box office is for a heady $29.0 million, a total that would exceed the amazing Wednesday opening of $28.52 million for Star Wars and be roughly equivalent to Potter's Friday total. This means that the Sunday estimate appears to be somewhat ambitious so we can look for a slightly smaller weekend tally when actuals come in tomorrow. As usual, we'll have a second update with actuals that will more accurately track this unfolding story.

Where is Potter going in the long run? My first answer is that it's too early to tell, but its final gross will obviously be huge. Indications are good for long-term prospects, as Cinemascores were almost all A+s, and the reviews collected at RottenTomatoes.com were generally positive with 74 out of 94 critics giving the film thumbs up. After a summer of huge opening weekends and huge drop-offs, it's nice to know Harry Potter will buck that trend. Much like the way Dreamworks revved up Shrek by opening it the weekend before U.S. Memorial Day, Warner Bros. has done the same thing with Harry Potter and U.S. Thanksgiving Day. Look for Potter to gross the same amount over the five-day holiday next weekend as it did over the three-day period this weekend.

Warner Bros. has been waiting for this since The Perfect Storm surprised with a $40.1 million opening weekend back in July of last year. Sure they have had some minor hits since then, but in terms of profitability, very few films have made the grade at WB over the last year and a half. All of that is going to change with Harry Potter. Quite a few budget numbers have been thrown around for Potter, the latest being a production cost of $105 million, an amount that should be recouped by end of business on Tuesday. The marketing budget for Potter was used smartly and sparingly as the media once again turned the release of Harry Potter into a bigger than life event. This series of films is an unlimited source of cash for the studio; the next step in the trilogy hits theatres a year from now after WB makes more money on the home video release of the first film.

Here's a list of past Warner Bros. releases. How many of these equal one Harry Potter? Their last 16 titles opened to a combined $202 million, a total Potter will surpass in its first ten days.

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE movie like '%Rock Star%' OR movie like '%American Outlaws%' OR movie like '%3000 Miles to Graceland%' OR movie like '%Rock Star%' " sqlstr = sqlstr + "OR movie like '%Osmosis Jones%' OR movie like 'Cats and Dogs' OR movie like '%A.I.%' " sqlstr = sqlstr + "OR movie like '%Swordfish%' OR movie like '%Angel Eyes%' OR movie like '%Driven%' " sqlstr = sqlstr + "OR movie like '%Pokemon 3%' OR movie like '%Exit Wounds%' OR movie like '%See Spot Run%' " sqlstr = sqlstr + "OR movie like 'Cats and Dogs%' OR movie like 'Hearts in Atlantis%' OR movie like '%Summer Catch%' " sqlstr = sqlstr + " OR movie like 'Rock Star%' OR movie like 'The One' OR movie like '%Osmosis Jones%' OR movie like '%American Outlaws%' " sqlstr = sqlstr + " OR movie like '%Thirteen Ghosts%' ORDER BY open DESC" max = 100 header = "Recent Warner Bros. Releases" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

Believe it or not, business still continued at theatres beyond Harry Potter. Monsters, Inc was the obvious choice for second place, but how much would it drop in the face of Harry Potter? When The Mummy faced The Phantom Menace back in May of 1999, The Mummy movie was entering its third weekend coming off two weeks of box office glory. Would there be room for both the juggernaut Phantom Menace and the new Mummy at the box office? Of course. The Mummy dropped almost exactly the same amount it did the weekend without Star Wars as it did being against Star Wars (42.7% and 44.5% respectively).

Monsters, Inc. grossed $23.05 million this weekend, a drop of 50%. Disney grabbed another 192 screens for their mega-release this weekend, giving it a venue count of 3,461 and an average of $6,645. After three weeks, the total gross now stands at a very impressive $156.7 million, with the lucrative Thanksgiving weekend still to come. Monsters was hurt most on Friday, when its Friday to Friday drop was 53%. Is Disney worried? No way. The leggy Christmas season gets off with a bang next weekend, and Monsters should play well for many weeks to come.

Third spot went to last weekend's big opener, Shallow Hal. The Shallow one grossed $12.7 million this week from 2,803 screens and had a screen average of $4,531. Hal dropped 44% compared to last week, mostly due to questionable word of mouth more than any sort of competition factor. The total for the Fox release now stands at $41.3 million. Fox has more good news on the horizon as next week Black Knight with Martin Lawrence opens, followed by Behind Enemy Lines the weekend after.

Paramount's Domestic Disturbance managed to stay in fourth this weekend, leapfrogging Jet Li's The One and David Mamet's The Heist. DD grossed $5.6 million from 2,881 venues with a screen average of $1,944. When this film was released, I had expected it would be off of this list by its third weekend but with $33.9 million in the bank so far, it is obvious that parents are seeking out the Travolta name during kids week at the movie theatre. DD dropped 35% this week and will see much more serious competition next weekend when the Redford/Pitt thriller, Spy Game, opens in theaters across North America.

In fifth this weekend was The Heist, another film from Warner Bros. The Heist grossed $4.67 million, down 40%. The week-to-week drop for The Heist is key as this type of film is dependent on word of mouth. With a cost of $35 million, and a gross so far of $15 million, The Heist is going to need a big push next weekend to make this one profitable.

Jet Li's The One landed in sixth this week, down three spots. The effects-filled flick grossed $4.2 million this weekend from 2,433 screens, a drop of 461 screens. The One lost 54% of its audience this week, and its box office future looks to end up in the $50 million area as it has $38.4 million in the kitty so far.

In seventh this week was Universal's K-PAX. The supposed man from space saga grossed $3.27 million, down 48% compared to last week. It had a screen average of $1,726 from 2,305 venues. The total for K-PAX now stands at $45.5 million.

Eighth, ninth and tenth were very close. Eighth went to the other new release this week, the heavily internet-hyped The Wash, starring Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. The Wash grossed $3 million over the three day portion of the weekend from 749 screens. The urban comedy was released on Wednesday, and its five day total is $3.8 million. Snoop has now been in two box office disappointments in a matter of weeks, as the horror flick Bones also flopped last month. Ninth went to Life as a House with Kevin Kline. Life doesn't look healthy at the box office. The New Line release grossed $2.73 million, dropping 29% and its total stands at $9.1 million. Tenth spot went to Thirteen Ghosts, another release from Warner Bros. - Ghosts grossed $2.19 million this week and its total stands at $37.7 million.

As for limited releases this weekend, Amélie from Miramax grossed $1.3 million from 163 venues for a screen average of $7,975, the second highest in the top 12. Its total stands at $2.675 million after only three weeks of release.

Obviously, this is another huge weekend for total box office. Harry Potter helped the top 12 reach $157.1 million this weekend, up 6.59% when compared to last year. Why isn't the percentage higher? In 2000, The Grinch opened to $55 million, Rugrats in Paris opened to $22.7 million, The Sixth Day opened to $13 million and Bounce opened to $11.42 million. The tally for the four openers was $102.12 million - a total that even Harry Potter can't dispel. In terms of week-to-week percentage, this week was up 35.46% compared to last.

Thanksgiving weekend will mean another huge frame at the box office as Harry Potter trundles into his second week, and the Monsters bang into their fourth. New releases over the holiday period are the Universal thriller Spy Game, Fox's Black Knight and the heavily hyped Out Cold from Touchstone. Check the BOP release schedule for release dates and estimated venue counts.

Top 10 for Weekend of November 16-18, 2001
Number of Sites
Change in Sites from Last
Estimated Gross ($)
Cumulative Gross ($)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Monsters, Inc.
Shallow Hal
Domestic Disturbance
No change
The One
The Wash
Life as a House
No change
Thirteen Ghosts



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