Guinea pigs leave ‘Harry’ reeling; ‘500 Days’ turning into indie hit


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Superpowered guinea pigs and a lack of Imax screens put Harry Potter on the ropes at the box office.

‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ declined 61% on its second weekend to a studio-estimated $30 million in the U.S. and Canada. 2007’s ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,’ which also debuted on a July Wednesday, fell 58% to $32.5 million on its second weekend.


The total domestic gross for ‘Half-Blood Prince’ is $221.8 million. Accounting for the 9% rise in ticket prices over the last two years, that puts it $4.8 million behind ‘Order of the Phoenix’ at the same point.

The new movie does have one disadvantage, however: It’s playing only on four Imax screens, whereas ‘Order of the Phoenix’ was on 91. Imax screens have higher ticket prices and tend to stay packed after opening weekends.

Warner Bros. domestic distribution president Dan Fellman said that if Imax grosses are stripped from both pictures, ‘Half-Blood Prince’ and ‘Order of the Phoenix’ would have had virtually identical second weekend drops.

The real test for the new ‘Potter’ movie, which cost $250 million to produce and about $155 million to market and distribute, will come this Wednesday when it takes over 162 Imax screens now playing ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.’ If interest has stayed constant, its ticket sales should accelerate and at least match those of ‘Order of the Phoenix,’ including inflation. If it doesn’t, Warner will have to admit that ‘Potter’-mania is fading a bit.

The series continues to be a blockbuster overseas, however. ‘Half-Blood Prince’ earned $84.4 million this weekend, bringing its international total to $405.3 million.

‘Harry’ ended up facing stronger-than-expected competition at the domestic box office this weekend, as Disney’s ‘G-Force’ opened to a solid $32.2 million. The effect-heavy family film didn’t match the biggest-ever talking-animal movie, ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks,’ but was about on par with 2008’s ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua.’ Assuming it follows that picture’s trajectory and gets some boost from playing in the summer, when kids are out of school, it should end up grossing about $100 million domestically, a healthy if not quite huge performance.


Sony also saw a good start for its new movie, ‘The Ugly Truth.’ Despite withering reviews, the romantic comedy opened to $27 million. Audiences clearly differed from critics, only 15% of whom gave the picture a positive review, according to Rotten Tomatoes. Moviegoers gave ‘The Ugly Truth,’ which stars Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, an average grade of A-minus, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

The weekend’s third new movie, ‘Orphan,’ which Warner Bros. distributed for Dark Casle Entertainment, didn’t attract much attention. The low-budget horror flick grossed $12.8 million.

Underneath the radar, the year’s first independent hit appears to be brewing. ‘(500) Days of Summer’ earned $1.6 million at 85 theaters in 27 cities on its second weekend, bringing its total to $3 million. That’s a very strong figure for such a small number of locations and puts the romantic comedy in an extremely good position as Fox Searchlight expands it to more than 300 theaters Friday and about 1,000 the next weekend.

Here are the top 10 films at the domestic box office, according to studio estimates and

1. ‘G-Force’ (Disney): Opened to $32.2 million.

2. ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ (Warner Bros.): $30 million, down 61% on its second weekend. Total domestic ticket sales: $221.8 million.

3. ‘The Ugly Truth’ (Sony Pictures): $27 million on its first weekend.

4. ‘Orphan’ (Warner Bros./Dark Castle): Debuted with $12.8 million.

5. ‘Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs’ (Fox): $8.2 million on its fourth weekend, down 53%. Domestic total: $171.3 million.

6. ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ (Paramount): $8 million on its fifth weekend, a drop of 42%. Domestic total: $379.1 million.


7. ‘The Hangover’ (Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures): $6.5 million on its eighth weekend, a drop of 21%. Domestic total: $247.1 million.

8. ‘The Proposal’ (Disney): Down 23% on its sixth weekend to $6.4 million, bringing its domestic total to $140.1 million.

9. ‘Public Enemies’ (Universal/Relativity): $4.2 million on its fourth weekend, down 46%. Domestic total: $88.1 million.

10. ‘Bruno’ (Universal/MRC): Dropped 67% on its third weekend to $2.7 million. Domestic total: $56.5 million.

-- Ben Fritz