x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Final spell conjures up top of the Potters

Final Harry Potter film takes in Dh5.6 million at the UAE box office during opening five days - but fails to match record set by My Name is Khan - with gallery.

$6.37 billion: gross of the Harry Potter movie franchise, not including Deathly Hallows Part 2. AP Photo / Warner Bros. Pictures, Jaap Buitendijk
$6.37 billion: gross of the Harry Potter movie franchise, not including Deathly Hallows Part 2. AP Photo / Warner Bros. Pictures, Jaap Buitendijk

Harry Potter has bewitched North American cinema audiences with the final film in the epic series taking US$168 million (Dh617m) on the opening weekend - a box-office record.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2conjured up $10m more than the previous opening weekend record of $158m set in 2008 by the Batman film The Dark Knight.

Deathly Hallows - Part 2 had already raked in a record $92.1m in opening-day takings, smashing the previous record held by The Twilight Saga: New Moon, which took $72.7m in 2009.

"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," said Dan Fellman, the president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros who believes the film will break the $1 billion mark in worldwide ticket sales.

"We are going to be around for a long time."

But while the eighth big-screen adaptation of JK Rowling's saga of the boy wizard shattered records in North America, Deathly Hallows - Part 2 lost a little magic in the UAE.

While the film pulled in Potter fans in the Emirates, it failed to beat box-office takings of movies such as the Bollywood blockbuster My Name is Khan.

In the first five days of release, Deathly Hallows - Part 2 pulled in 126,000 movie fans and earned Dh5.6 million at the box office, according to Shooting Stars, the regional distributor for Warner Bros films in the UAE. That figure was overshadowed by My Name Is Khan, which last year set a record for the biggest opening for a Bollywood film in the UAE, selling 135,858 tickets in the first four days of its release.

"It hasn't broken all records here," said Andy Fordham, the brand marketing manager at Grand Cinemas, one of the largest cinema chains in the UAE.

"It certainly wasn't as big as Transformers," he added, in reference to the third instalment of the robot-action series. "Particular sites do better for different sorts of movies. The majority of the population are from the Asian subcontinent. [Harry Potter may not be] their bread and butter."

But Roy Chacra, the managing director of Shooting Stars, which distributesDeathly Hallows - Part 2, said the film had performed "extremely well" at the box office.

"It's one of the biggest openings," he said. "It's the biggest for Warner, and it's the biggest Harry Potter ever."

While the film may not have broken box-office records here, it has certainly left devoted followers in the UAE spellbound. "We did a premiere last Tuesday, and 30 to 40 per cent of people were dressed up in Harry Potter costume," said Mr Fordham, adding Grand Cinemas showed the film at its special Imax theatre at the Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai.

"I've never seen anything like it," he added.

Deathly Hallows - Part 2 marks the end of an era. It will probably be the final money-spinning offshoot of the Potter brand, which is estimated to be worth about $15 billion.

"This is the end of my childhood," Celeste Perez, 24, a US moviegoer told the Los Angeles Times as she was preparing to meet friends ahead of a show in Hollywood.

"It's like, 'now what's left for me? What can I cherish as much'?"

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 literary series, which has sold more than 400 million copies worldwide.

The stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, who play Harry, Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley, respectively, are accompanied by a cast of big-name British actors who include Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, and Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange.

* with Agencies

bflanagan@thenational.ae