'Harry Potter' poised to pass 'Star Wars' as biggest franchise
Scott Bowles, USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES — Harry Potter is near the end of his cinematic journey, but not before he casts more magic on the box office.
With the two-part Potter farewell —Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 opens Friday, with Part 2 following July 15 — almost here, analysts expect the boy wizard to anchor the highest-grossing film franchise of all time.
And Part 2 doesn't even open until next summer.
"This is one of the greatest box office franchises in movie history," says Brandon Gray, president of Box Office Mojo. "It's phenomenal they could maintain this level of business six movies in. That's nearly unheard of."
Analysts expect that Part 1 not only will enjoy the biggest debut in the series' history, but also propel the planned eight-film odyssey past Star Wars to become the highest-grossing franchise ever.
The George Lucas saga is king of the series heap, having raked in $1.9 billion domestically over six movies. But most observers say that by the end of Hallows' first-half run, the franchise — already at $1.7 billion — will force Star Wars down a peg.
"What's amazing to see is how consistent each film has been," says Jeff Bock of industry tracker Exhibitor Relations. "That's not just in quality, but also in terms of ticket sales."
Indeed, each series installment has averaged $285 million — steadiness matched only by Star Wars. According to Box Office Mojo, even James Bond is no match: Over 23 movies, 007 has earned $1.6 billion. Star Trek's 11 multiplex installments have beamed up $1 billion.
Analysts also expect Hallows to shatter the franchise's opening weekend record, which belongs to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which bowed to $103 million in 2005. Projections this weekend range from a $115 million to $125 million debut.
And that should come with less marketing muscle than other franchises require, Bock says.
"The books were so huge, you really don't have to tell people another Potter movie is coming," he says.
"Typically, when is book is off-the-charts successful — I think Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will be huge — you get a big series along with it, because the fan base is going to turn out for both."
Gray says distributor Warner Bros. and filmmakers have relied on more than just the bespectacled wizard's name to lure fans.
"You have to credit them for not just riding the wave of the books," Gray says. "If people didn't like the movies, people wouldn't be standing in line overnight to get in."