SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 7TH UPDATE: My sources are estimating $38.2 million for Saturday and $61.1 million for Friday from 4,125 theaters for the biggest installment in the Harry Potter franchise. Friday’s North American grosses were a November record for the Harry Potter franchise, including the $24M from 3,700 post-midnight locations. Warner Bros is now saying Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 translated to a weekend opening of $125.1M. That’s a lot of moolah as HP7A bested HP4‘s $102M weekend debut by +23% — and the 18-to-34 demos were +25% – and became #5 among all-time 3-day opening weekends. “The aging of the films have made them unique and the largest grossing franchise in motion picture history,” Warner Bros distribution czar Dan Fellman emails me. “No other film has successfully grown its audience in this manner.” Given that a net profit statement for 2007′s Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix shows that the film is still over $167M in the red despite grossing $938.2 million worldwide, I can’t wait to see how Warner Bros spins HP7A net.

Overseas, the latest Harry Potter installment earned a whopping $205M with 26.8 million admissions from 19,000 screens in 54 countries and 91 markets, including $4.2M from 101 screens for IMAX. Highlights included the UK’s £17.5m / $28.0M (3 million admissions on 1,852 screens)  for the biggest 3-day opening ever while Saturday’s box office of £6.6M was the biggest single day ever in UK history. 

1. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (Warner Bros) NEW [4,125 Theaters]
Friday $61.1M, Saturday $38.2M, Weekend $125.1M

The strategy by Warner Bros’ Sue Kroll was to launch “The Motion Picture Event of a Generation” — a year-long campaign that began selling both Parts 1 & 2 combined last summer. The marketing czarina positioned it as a must-see cultural phenom, the culmination of the ultimate battle between good & evil all leading up to Harry’s final face off with Voldemort. The studio launched a teaser trailer and poster touting both installments with Twilight last June that played through the summer, plus showed a 4-minute piece at Comi-Con in July to appeal to hard-core fans (the first time Harry Potter has ever been shown there.) All subsequent materials focused entirely on Part 1 with the main trailer, print materials, and in theater campaign launching in September. Warner Bros also bought an extremely broad TV campaign claiming HP isn’t just for kids anymore on everything from kids programming to sports and high profile network & cable shows. In October, a massive outdoor campaign began. “The goal was ubiquity,” a WB exec tells me.

2. Megamind (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) Week 3 [3,779 Theaters]
Friday $3.7M, Saturday $7.6M, Weekend $16.1M (-45%), Cume $109.4M

3. Unstoppable (Fox) Week 2 [3,209 Theaters]
Friday $4M, Saturday $5.8M, Weekend $13.1M (-42%), Cume $41.9M

This pic played well to those sparse audiences who showed up to see it. Fox Filmed Entertainment Group will be very happy when 2010 and its non-Avatar pics come to an end. Better luck next year.

4. Due Date (Warner Bros) Week 3 [3,229 Theaters]
Friday $2.9M, Saturday $3.9M, Weekend $9.1M, Cume $72.6M

5. The Next Three Days (Lionsgate) NEW [2,564 Theaters]
Friday $2.2M, Saturday $2.6M, Weekend $6.7M

Another box office disaster for Joe Drake and the Lionsgate motion picture group. Given that marketing costs these days start at $30M and go up and up and up, I don’t understand how Lionsgate can claim to me it “knew all along” that writer/director Paul Haggis’ The Next Three Days would make only $7M-$9M. Then why make this very ordinary thriller in the first place? “We knew that counter programming against Potter would be tricky, but the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and fact that adult films don’t always live or die by their opening weekends factored into our risk calculations,” an LG exec tells me. “We were very careful with our media buy, niche targeting our adult audience and not overspending.” Yet Russell Crowe refuses to be hired on the cheap. At least he went above and beyond his normal press outreach, doing the full press junket in support of the movie, and then 6 national talk shows. 

6. Morning Glory (Paramount) Week 2 [2,544 Theaters]
Friday $1.6M, Saturday $2.3M, Weekend $5.2M, Cume $19.8M

7. Skyline (Rogue/Relativity/Universal) Week 2 [2,883 Theaters]
Friday $1M, Weekend $3M, Cume $17.2M

8. Red (Summit) Week 6 [2,034 Theaters]
Friday $715K, Saturday $1.1M, Weekend $2.5M, Cume $83.6M

9. For Colored Girls (Lionsgate) Week 3 [1,216 Theaters]
Friday $680K, Weekend $1.8M, Cume $34M

10. Fair Game (Summit) Week 3 [386 Theaters]
Friday $380K, Saturday $690M, Weekend $1.5M, Cume $3.7M

FRIDAY 10 AM, 3RD UPDATE: Post-midnight screenings of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 made $24 million from 3,700 North American locations today. That’s a record for the franchise which has taken in nearly $5.5 billion in worldwide revenue, the most successful movie franchise in box office history. The previous midnight Harry Potter record was the sixth installment with $22M. (For midnight screenings of HP7A in 238 IMAX theaters in North America, the $1.436 million tally beat IMAX’s previous midnight record grosses of $1.036 million from the Twilight Saga: Eclipse.) “This is off to a huge start with $11M already reported for Friday matinees,” a Warner Bros executive emails me. The studio believes that HP7A could open to a whopping $135M by Sundays’s end.

THURSDAY 7 PM, 2ND UPDATE: I’m told that as of 6 PM tonight advance sales were $35 million for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.

THURSDAY 4 PM UPDATE:With only a few hours to go before its 12:01 AM Friday premiere, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 is past $30 million in advance sales and may be looking at $60 million for Friday’s opening day and a 3-day debut weekend total of $130+ million. Maybe even $150M. Yowza! The last 2 Harry Potter films both had weekend grosses of $77M each. “We will EASILY pass $100M for our opening FSS this time around,’ a Warner Bros executive tells me. Meanwhile, the picture has already leaped over previous record-holders to become giant online ticketseller Fandango’s top  Harry Potter advance ticket-seller in Fandango’s 10-year history, and the overall 3rd best pre-seller in company history following only Summit’s Twilight Saga: New Moon and Twilight Saga: Eclipse. It has bested Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. This #7A latest in the HP franchise currently represents 97% of today’s ticket sales and more than 3,000 showtimes are already sold out in cities and towns across the country. I hear theater owners are scrambling to add new midnight and 3:15 AM showtimes to meet the fan demand.

EXCLUSIVE… Wednesday 12:30 PM: Warner Bros is warning me to “get ready for a record-breaking weekend” for its Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 which opens at 12:01 AM Friday. But the pic is already breaking records and it hasn’t even opened for another 36 hours. It will play in a whopping 3,700 midnight locations, which is a record, with the screen count to adjust based on the demand so that figure could climb even higher. The general theater count for Friday’s release is already 4,125, a November record for the Harry Potter franchise, with over 9,000 screens. In addition to these unprecedented numbers, Warner Bros’ Dan Fellman has lined up 239 IMAX Theatres, another record (the last HP only had 166 IMAX screens). “Since almost all the IMAX have sold out the weekend already, they are adding a 3 AM show starting with the first midnight show,” my insider says. There also are an additional 65 “Special Presentation Circuit Screens”. Most importantly, the studio already has $25 Million in advance ticket sales, another record. “All good news for a huge HP weekend,” a Warner Bros exec gushed to me.

Fandango, the giant online ticket seller, just reported to me that it’s now sold out more than 2,200 showtimes of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 in advance of its opening tomorrow night at midnight. The film represents 96% of Fandango’s daily ticket sales. “A healthy percentage of Part 1 tickets were sold via Fandango’s mobile apps for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7 and Palm Pre,” exec Harry Medved tells me.

Meanwhile, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 today catapulted to the No. 5 advance online ticket seller of all-time today at MovieTickets.com. The movie closely trails No. 4 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. “With less than 48 hours still available for advance ticket purchases prior to the film’s premiere, it could climb even higher,” MovieTickets.com says. As of 11 AM ET today, MovieTickets.com reports the following HP7 updates: that Harry Potter/Deathly Hallows, Pt 1 represents 94% of all of today’s ticket sales at MovieTickets.com, with over 1,900 sellouts already (though there are plenty of tickets still available for purchase) and more than 160 sellouts in New York and Los Angeles.

Also, Fandango ran a new survey this week on the Part 1 ticket-buying page on Fandango, and here are the results from more than 1,000 respondents. Some 70% of respondents to were age 34 or under; 73% are female:

– 97% say they’re excited to see the characters in a more mature Harry Potter storyline.
– 94% said the darker elements of Part 1 increase their interest in seeing the movie.
– 73% say they feel like they grew up with Harry Potter.
– 68% say that Daniel Radcliffe’s and Emma Watson’s “vigorous kissing” scene (Radcliffe’s wording) increases their interest in the movie.
– 52% predict Emma Watson will be the first, among the three stars, to win an Oscar for a future role.

For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here...

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.