"Potter" Enchants Fans with $58M Open

Emma Watson, center, Daniel Radcliffe, right, and Rupert Grint are shown in a scene from "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." AP/Warner Bros., Jaap Buitendjik

A long school break has been kind to "Harry Potter."

After a two-year gap since the last film, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" opened with a whopping $58.4 million domestically in its first day, distributor Warner Bros. said Thursday.

"Half-Blood Prince" also conjured up $45.8 million in 33 other countries where it opened Wednesday, among them Great Britain, France, Germany, Australia and Japan. That gave the film a worldwide total of $104.2 million.

Domestically, the movie had the best single-day haul yet for the franchise and the fourth-best daily gross ever, behind last year's "The Dark Knight" at $67.2 million, this summer's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" at $62 million and 2007's "Spider-Man 3" at $59.8 million.

"Half-Blood Prince" receipts include a record $22.2 million from midnight screenings alone, surpassing the previous high of $18.5 million for "The Dark Knight."

The sixth installment in the "Harry Potter" series had the second-highest debut ever for a movie opening on Wednesday. It trailed only the "Transformers" sequel opening last month.

The new movie generally has gotten the best reviews yet among the big-screen adventures of teen wizard Harry (Daniel Radcliffe).

"Half-Blood Prince" has Harry struggling to pry a critical memory loose from a new Hogwarts teacher who possesses key information in the coming showdown between the young hero and the evil Lord Voldemort.

The two-year lag since the fifth movie, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," was the longest in the franchise's history. "Order of the Phoenix" started with a $44.8 million opening day on a mid-July Wednesday in 2007 and went on to gross $139.7 million by the end of its first weekend.

The big launch for "Half-Blood Prince" could put it on track to pass that mark over its first five days. The film also has a solid launch to challenge the franchise's all-time best earner, which remains 2001's original movie, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," with $975 million worldwide.

"It certainly gives us something to look forward to, but we have to take it one week at a time," said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. head of distribution.

Warner has had great luck with mid-July debuts, opening "The Dark Knight" and "Order of the Phoenix" over the same weekends the last two years. The studio has carved out that weekend again next summer with "Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan's follow-up, the sci-fi thriller "Inception," starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

The final "Harry Potter" movie follows on July 15, 2011, the second half of a two-part adaptation of the last book in J.K. Rowling's fantasy series. The first movie in that two-parter hits theaters Nov. 19, 2010.
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