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'Harry Potter' Strikes Gold With Midnight Show

DAVID GERMAIN   07/15/09 03:34 PM ET   AP

Harry Potter

LOS ANGELES — Harry Potter has conjured up a record-breaking witching hour.

The latest adventure of the teen wizard, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," took in $22.2 million domestically from midnight screenings, distributor Warner Bros. said Thursday. That breaks the record set by another Warner blockbuster, "The Dark Knight," which grossed $18.5 million from midnight shows last summer.

The sixth installment in the "Harry Potter" franchise also topped this year's biggest hit, "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," which pulled in $16 million from midnight screenings on its first day in June.

"Half-Blood Prince" raked in $10 million more from midnight screenings than part five, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," in summer 2007.

There was pent-up demand for "Harry Potter" after that last movie. The two-year lag since "Order of the Phoenix" was the longest fans have had to wait for a new "Harry Potter" flick since the first movie arrived in 2001.

Warner originally planned to release "Half-Blood Prince" last November but bumped it to 2009 to take advantage of an open weekend in Hollywood's busy summer schedule.

"We're sorry that it caused some angst with our fans, but they're troopers, and they came out and supported the movie," said Dan Fellman, head of domestic distribution for Warner.

The new movie has Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) trying to pry loose a hidden memory from one of his teachers, who holds key information about the wizard world's darkest enemy, Lord Voldemort.

Earning some of the best reviews in the franchise's history, the new "Harry Potter" tale played to packed crowds in 3,003 theaters for its midnight debut. Domestically, that theater count climbed to 4,275 later Wednesday, and 50 more cinemas will be added Friday.

With that kind of market saturation, "Half-Blood Prince" could set other new box-office highs – both for the "Harry Potter" franchise and Hollywood in general.

"It's definitely within reach of some of the biggest records in box-office history," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com

"Order of the Phoenix" also opened on a Wednesday and had the franchise's best five-day debut at $139.7 million. "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" had the top three-day weekend opening of $102.7 million.

"The Dark Knight" is the record-holder for best opening day ($67.2 million), best weekend ($158.4 million) and best five-day debut ($203.8 million).

The seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling's fantasy series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," is being split into two parts for the big screen, with the first movie due out in November 2010 and the second in July 2011.

David Yates, who directed both "Half-Blood Prince" and "Order of the Phoenix," also is making the final two films.

"We just wish there were another four books," Fellman said.

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Filed by Katherine Thomson  |