The Movie: 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,' the seventh and next-to-last film in the 'Harry Potter' franchise, directed by David Yates and starring every character actor to ever hail from the United Kingdom.
The Target Audience: Every die-hard, fan and admirer of the most widely appealing series since at least 'Star Wars,' and maybe ever. And their friends and families.
The Competition: Very little, predictably – Hollywood cleared the way for the juggernaut, with only Lionsgate offering 'The Next Three Days' as new counter-programming. It did not end well for 'The Next Three Days,' though it offered Russell Crowe, Liam Neeson, Paul Haggis, and a fun little high concept plot. Nor did it end well for every other film in the top 10, all of which saw at least a 50% drop – more evidence of 'Potter''s insanely broad appeal. For the full lowdown on the weekend's results, check out Moviefone's Box Office Report.
The Number: An estimated $125 million – a franchise record, and the sixth highest opening weekend of all time. The next biggest 'Harry Potter' opening is 'Goblet of Fire' with $102 million; the previous two films each opened in the summer to roughly $75 million, though 'Half-Blood Prince' ultimately ended up out-grossing 'Goblet of Fire.'
The thing about 'Harry Potter' is that far from waning in popularity, it seems to pick up fans as it goes. The first film, Chris Columbus's 'Sorcerer's Stone,' is still the highest-grossing domestically, but the order after that is six-five-four-two-three. 'Deathly Hallows: Part 1' has a good chance of wresting away the crown.
All of which suggests that, even as they count the 'Potter' profits, Warner Bros. and J.K. Rowling's publishers must be in agony over Rowling's unwillingness to write another book, 'Harry Potter' or otherwise. (I hope no one thinks splitting 'Deathly Hallows' into two movies was a purely artistic decision.) It's been over three years since the last book was published (yes, I stood in line), and we've heard nary a peep. That speaks well of Rowling as a woman of her word – she said she was done, and apparently she is – but you can almost hear the worldwide gnashing of teeth.
Staying Power: The total-gross-to-opening-weekend-gross ratio for the 'Harry Potter' films tends to hover around 3, and is itself inversely proportional to the opening weekend number. (In other words, when the movies open huge, the opening weekend ends up being a higher percentage of the total take, which is common.) Based on that, it seems reasonable to project $350 million for 'Deathly Hallows: Part 1.' That would be enough to make it the richest 'Harry Potter' yet.