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Harry Potter's 'Goblet' Runneth Over

Warner Bros. Pictures' "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" worked some powerful and much-needed magic at the boxoffice this weekend, levitating an estimate of a $101.4 million pot in its North American bow. With about $80 million in international receipts, the worldwide boxoffice for "Goblet" stands at an impressive $181.4 million.

The sensational domestic debut marked a new high for the franchise, the fourth-biggest nonholiday opening in boxoffice history and the largest opening in the fourth quarter.

The latest installment and fourth film in the "Potter" series, helmed by Mike Newell and starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, marked the first time Warner Bros. had a picture open to more than $100 million. "Goblet" joins an elite club and takes a seat at the table with Sony's "Spider-Man" and "Spider-Man 2," 20th Century Fox's "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," and DreamWorks' "Shrek 2."

Not to be left out of the spotlight, Fox's critically acclaimed Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line" took center stage in second place with an estimated $22.4 million -- at the high end of expectations heading into the frame. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon star in the James Mangold-directed drama about the legendary singer-songwriter.

With the top 12 films grossing an estimated $171 million, the marketplace for the weekend before Thanksgiving expanded to record levels. Compared with last year, the total for the top 12 films was up a sharp 19% -- a welcome respite for a boxoffice beleaguered of late. The Hollywood Reporter projects the total for all films to be in the mid- to high-$170 million area, up considerably from last year's $151.6 million and easily beating the all-time high of $160.9 million set in 2001 for the comparable frame.

Regarding the marketplace expansion in the face of the stable price of popcorn, Warner Bros.' president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman said, "I've said it all along, and I'll say it again: There's nothing wrong with the boxoffice that good content can't fix. With 'Potter' and 'Walk the Line,' I rest my case."

With "Goblet" and "Line" taking the top spots and the lion's share of the boxoffice this weekend, many of the remaining holdovers in wide release took steep drops of more than 50% and 60% from the previous session.

Buena Vista's "Chicken Little" held up relatively well in the third spot with an estimated $14.8 million, slipping 53% in its third weekend in theaters. The CG-animated comedy has cleared an estimated $99.2 million to date and will be joining the $100 million club in short order.

The Weinstein Co.'s "Derailed" had the lowest decline among wide-release holdovers, placing fourth in its second weekend with an estimated $6.5 million, down 47% from its debut. The R-rated thriller, starring Jennifer Aniston and Clive Owen, has almost grossed its $22 million production costs, with an estimated $21.8 million in its coffers.

Sony's well-reviewed "Zathura" was in the fifth spot with an estimated $5.1 million. The PG-rated adventure from director Jon Favreau slipped a sharp 62% from its opening session and has grossed about $20.3 million to date.

In its third weekend, Universal's "Jarhead" placed sixth with an estimated $4.8 million, down 59% from a week ago, advancing the cume to about $54.3 million.

The sophomore frame of Paramount's "Get Rich or Die Tryin' " pulled in an estimated $4.4 million, down a precipitous 64% from its debut. The R-rated drama, starring Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, has accumulated $24.5 million to date.

Focus Features' "Pride & Prejudice" held tight in the 10th spot for the second consecutive weekend, taking in an estimated $2.1 million from 221 theaters, down a minor 26% from its opening. The period drama averaged a stout $9,502 per theater while raising the total to about $6 million.

Remarking on the tremendous opening of "Goblet," Fellman said: "It was a real team effort, starting with Alan Horn and Jeff Robinov hiring Mike Newell, who did an outstanding job, Dawn Taubin and her marketing team, especially Jim Fredrick, who has been the creative director from Day 1 on 'Potter' and has been able to keep the campaigns fresh and compelling."

Fellman noted that the PG-13 "Goblet" was the best reviewed of the four Potter films and added, "Not only did the critics agree, but exits support that as well." Fellman said "Goblet" is well-positioned to be a major contender throughout the Christmas holiday.

Imax theaters contributed a record $2.8 million from 66 screens to the weekend's gross for "Goblet," averaging a robust $42,424 per theater. It was the largest Friday, Saturday and Sunday grosses ever reported for an Imax film, whether 2-D or 3-D, Fellman said.

The distributor also is set to make movie history with "Goblet" when it crosses the $200 million mark. "Goblet" will join "Batman Begins" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" as Warner Bros.' third film released this year to reach that level. No studio has had three films gross more than $200 million each in one year.

Executives at Fox were equally upbeat about the debut for "Line." "With 'Harry Potter' being as huge as 'Harry Potter' is and 'Walk the Line' still finding plenty of room to do the business you would hope it could do, it's a great marketplace. Two quality pictures with different audiences that don't get in each other's way -- it's fantastic," Fox's president of domestic distribution Bruce Snyder said.

Snyder was optimistic about the film's prospects, noting, " 'Walk the Line' played terrific across the board, from Biloxi to Brooklyn to Beverly Hills -- it worked everywhere." The PG-13 'Line' garnered a stellar 90% in the top two boxes in exits and a high 80% in the definite recommend box. The audience for "Line" skewed female and slightly older, with 62% in the 25-and-older demographic.

In the world of limited release, Sony Pictures Classics' "Breakfast on Pluto" debuted in three locales and grossed an estimated $34,874 and averaged $11,625 per theater. Neil Jordan directed the drama, which stars Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson and Stephen Rea, and has collected about $45,019 since its release Wednesday. "Pluto" expands to Los Angeles on Dec. 2. In its eighth weekend, the distributor's "Capote" generated an estimated $954,498 from 317 houses, boosting the total for the drama to $7.8 million.

Rialto's "Classe Tous Risques," the first stateside release of the 1960 French-language crime thriller, debuted with an estimated $12,600 from one theater in New York. The unrated film from director Claude Sautet opens Jan. 6 in Los Angeles and Chicago.

IDP's "Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic," from Roadside Attractions, grossed an estimated $133,200 from 18 locations, 11 more than the previous weekend, and averaged $7,400 per theater. The documentary has tallied $309,664 after two weekends.

The second session of Fox Searchlight's "Bee Season" posted an estimated $230,000 from 138 venues, up 117 from a week earlier. The drama has picked up about $390,803 to date.

For the week ending Nov. 17, the national boxoffice was down almost 14% from the comparable seven-day period last year ($158.1 million vs. $183.6 million), as the year-to-date total holds steady with a 7% deficit as compared with 2004 ($7.55 billion vs. $8.10 billion). Estimated admissions for the year-to-date are off some 9% from this time last year.


Brian Fuson writes for The Hollywood Reporter.

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