This Week In Movies by Pete Hammond: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II What else is there to talk about this week in movies? It’s all about a beloved literary character from books read by kids the world over and now brought to life in countless films, the latest opening this past Friday.

And if you think I’m talking about Winnie The Pooh you’re living in a cave.
Despite Disney’s pooh-pooh opening for the week’s only other wide release ,Winnie The Pooh, this week is all about the final, FINAL chapter of Warner Bros. gigantic film franchise , Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. Now I wasn’t a huge fan of last November’s Part I, a very dark and somewhat convoluted affair that just seemed to drag out the Potter tale rather than expand it , but this finale is something else . a perfectly pitched emotionally satisfying way for the most successful franchise in motion picture history to go out. Audiences seemed to agree giving this one a solid ‘A’ Cinemascore rating and a record-breaking domestic weekend sendoff of an estimated $168 million, $10 million more than The Dark Knight scored three years ago. Worldwide the total now stands at nearly half a billion ($475 million) for the opening weekend, simply astounding. That beats Potter’s own previous best, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by over $70 million. Of course this is the first Potter film to succumb to the 3D disease that has swept the industry so those higher prices factored into the much bigger haul this time but actually with Potter fever running at an all time high and interest so intense in the final film it is clear records would be shattered even if it had only been released on 16MM prints.

When I talked to director David Yates on Thursday , the eve of the Potter phenomenon, he expressed his own basic dislike of the 3D process but said he did everything he could to make this 3D conversion the best possible, at least from a technical standpoint. Yates has directed the last four (out of eight) editions of the Harry Potter franchise spending six years solid going from one to another. He only finished this one just three weeks before opening and is now looking for a long vacation. The director had never dabbled in films of this scale before taking on his first one, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) and it’s been quite an education. Before that he dabbled in small British television dramas winning a couple of BAFTA awards. Just before taking on Potter he won an Emmy nomination for the much acclaimed HBO english character romance, The Girl In The Café in 2005. He told me he has his eye on a couple of similarly small projects as his next professional gigs but first plans to take a few months off to recover from Pottermania. Chris Columbus, Mike Newell, Alfonso Cuaron were other Potter directors in the early days of the franchise ,which started at the turn of the century, but finally producer David Heyman decided to stick with one guy, Yates, to finish the highly demanding CGI effects driven series.

For Yates it wasn’t all the splashy visuals but the character development that intrigued him most and he credits author J.K. Rowling and screenwriter Steve Kloves for never letting that get overrun by the action on screen. He also said he was thrilled to be working with a virtual who’s who of British cinema including the indomitable Maggie Smith who thankfully is given more to do in the final chapter.

There is no question that this perfect ending is a happy one for everyone involved in the franchise but the real question is what does Warner Bros do to follow it up? The Hobbit is currently in production so they will have those two films but it’s safe to say there will never be another like Harry.

Poor Winnie The Pooh was just left begging for Harry’s leftovers earning only $7.5 million, almost totally from low-priced matinees. Certainly the running time couldn’t be blamed for the mediocre showing (despite a large TV marketing campaign). Pooh was barely over an hour at 68 minutes. Maybe if they called it Winnie The Pooh and the Deathly Tigger Chronicles, Part II it might have done better.

Finally , virtually lost in all the Potter boxoffice hype is the fact that Midnight In Paris officially has become the top domestic grossing Woody Allen movie – EVER. At $41.7 it surpassed 1986’s Hannah And Her Sisters to become number one in the Allen canon. That’s a real achievement for Woody but the total gross of his film since its opening on May 20, nearly two months ago, still fell short of the $43 million Harry Potter made from pre-opening midnight shows ALONE on Thursday. Yet Potter and Allen both deserve the term “phenomenal” to describe their box office milestones this weekend.

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About Pete Hammond

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic and film expert whose commentary on the entertainment industry has appeared in numerous publications and on air interviews including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, OK Magazine, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Evening News With Brian Williams on MSNBC, the CBC, BBC, Bravo, E!, AMC, Canada AM and the KTLA Morning Show.

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