July 18, 2011 (AFP) – It’s the end of an era, and it’s going out with a bang worthy of a truckload of magical fireworks from Zonko’s: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2” shattered the opening weekend record at the North American box office, industry trackers said Sunday.
Muggles — non-magical people — of all ages handed over a collective $168 million as they flocked to see the eighth and final film in the Harry Potter series.
The haul is $10 million more the previous opening weekend record of $158-million set in 2008 by the Batman film “The Dark Knight.”
“DH-2” had already raked in a record $92.1 million in opening day sales, smashing the previous record held by “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” which took $72.7 million in 2009.
In the finale to one of the most successful film franchises of all time, released in both 2D and 3D versions, the boy wizard takes on the evil Lord Voldemort in a climactic showdown at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It is the second of two movies based on the final book in the wildly successful coming of age Potter series by British author J. K. Rowling.
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint — Potter, Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley respectively — are accompanied by a cast of big-name British actors that include Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, and Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange.
To the delight of fans, many of whom showed up at the movie theater dressed as their favorite Potter characters, the movie also sees a return of most of the secondary personalities from past films.
“DH-2” covers the final third of the last Potter book and is a fast-paced adventure that follows the scene set in “DH-1.” It is also the best-reviewed movie of the series.
Many fans have mixed feelings about the end of the series.
“This is the end of my childhood,” Los Angeles resident Celeste Perez, 24, told the Los Angeles Times as she was preparing to meet with friends ahead of a midnight Thursday show.
“It’s like, ‘Now what’s left for me? What can I cherish as much?'” she told the newspaper.
Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., told the newspaper he believes “DH-2” will break the $1 billion mark in worldwide ticket sales.
“We had the most successful franchise in the history of the motion picture business and we had a huge fan base. We also got fantastic reviews,” Fellman said. “That all enables us to expand our footprint. We are going to be around for a long time.”
The series on the adventures of the orphan who discovers he has magical powers are a global phenomenon, with the books available in 69 languages.
More than 400 million copies of the books have been sold since Rowling, a one-time struggling single-mother on welfare, published the first instalment in 1997.
Rowling has a personal net worth of a billion dollars, reportedly making her richer than the British queen. The Harry Potter brand alone has an estimated worth of some 15 billion dollars.
Rowling, whose mother died of multiple sclerosis in 1990, has donated millions to MS research and treatment. She also has become a leading supporter of British poverty-fighting charity Comic Relief.
The films and books may have come to an end, but stories from Hogwarts have not: Rowling has unveiled an interactive website featuring new material about Potter’s world, and promised that will be open starting in October.
The first Harry Potter film was released in 2001 and the seven movies so far have earned over 6.4 billion dollars (4.4 billion euros) globally, making stars — and multi-millionaires — out of Radcliffe, Watson and Grint.