Media Money with Julia Boorstin

Harry Potter's Magic Touch

Harry Potter is some Wizard; he turns pretty much every business he touches into gold. The sixth movie in the franchise "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" opened at 12:01 Wednesday am with a record take; its 3,000 plus midnight shows brought in $22.2 million at the US box office. That's a solid ten million dollars more than the midnight gross from the previous Potter film. This puts the wizard on track for the biggest Wednesday to Sunday opening ever. Warner Brothers' decision to hold the movie from November to the big popcorn-consumption months in the summer was a wise one. Last year it was this weekend that "The Dark Knight" set the previous record for biggest-ever opening day.

This movie is just huge for Warner Brothers, certainly its most important franchise for the next couple years. After this film there are another two due out in 2010 and 2011. With a built-in audience and appeal to what Hollywood calls "all four quadrants" (men, women, young, old), the box office numbers are stunning. The first five films generated $1.4 billion at the US box office while they brought in $4.5 billion globally. (Reports put the budget of this film at $250 million and the cost of marketing and distribution at $150 million, but it still feels like relatively low risk).

And the phenomenon goes far beyond the movie theater. DVD sales have been strong -- it helps that the studio can keep on introducing new box sets every time a movie is released. David Davis, a banker at boutique media firm Arpeggio Partners tells me that when it comes to licensing fees, Warner Bros. gets a much higher percentage for Harry Potter than pretty much any other brand. Davis says that so far Warner Bros. has generated about a billion dollars in PROFIT from the franchise, and it stands to generate another billion dollars.

The movie is working some magic for other companies as well. Electronic Arts produces the Harry Potter video games. Book publisher Scholastic surely gets a boost when the movie brings the brand back into the public consciousness. NECA is the private toy company that has the main licenses for Harry Potter toys, but Mattel and Hasbro hold a few licenses for Potter games as well.

This weekend I'll be watching to see if Potter can surpass 007 and a few other franchises to become the most successful movie series ever.

And then of course there's the woman behind the Potter goldmine, who continues to cash in as fans line up to buy tickets for this weekend's film. Author JK Rowling has an estimated net worth of $1 billion, thanks in no small part to the movies.

Questions?  Comments?