Warner Bros weaved a magical opening for Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix at the weekend as the fifth episode in the fantasy saga conjured up an estimated $190.3m from 44 territories.
Approximately 31m people overseas turned out to see the film, which amassed $330m around the world in what has become the studio and franchise's biggest ever international and global opening, and the third biggest international debut in history.
Pound-for-pound this is actually the biggest international launch in history, because while Spider-Man 3 and Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End scored higher international openings earlier this summer, both launched in more than 100 territories. Order Of The Phoenix's weekend result includes a record overseas IMAX result of $2.1m from 35 prints.
Jubilant executives at Warner Bros Pictures International (WBPI) announced the company had crossed $1bn in international receipts - the seventh consecutive year it has reached the milestone - and has already reached $1.15bn.
Order Of The Phoenix opened number one in all its markets and produced a string of records, notably the biggest four-day opening and the second biggest three-day launch in the UK behind Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire thanks to a $32.5m (£16.15m) haul and 3.3m admissions from 1,390 prints.
Germany generated what is expected to be the biggest launch of the year on $18.8m (Eu13.8m) and 2m admissions from 1,300 prints, while France produced the year's biggest opening on a par with Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End with $16.9m (Eu12.4m) and 2.1m admissions from 950.
Arguably the most noteworthy result was the $11m (Eu8.1m) launch in Italy that drew 1.3m admissions from 837 prints. This marked the first major summer release in the territory since Mission: Impossible II in 2000 and produced the second biggest opening weekend in the franchise behind Goblet Of Fire and the fifth biggest industry opening.
Whether the other studios will now follow suit and attempt to overturn the Italian summer's recent reputation for miserly returns remains to be seen, but WBPI believes it may have found the formula for success. 'It is our belief that if you give the audience the right movies, the Italian summer corridor will expand, and we can make Italy a 12-month movie going reality,' WBPI's distribution chief Veronika Kwan-Rubinek said.
It remained unclear whether WBPI will release the Wachowski Brothers' upcoming Japanese animation adaptation Speed Racer or Batman Begins sequel The Dark Knight during the summer in Italy next year alongside other territories.
Order Of The Phoenix scored further franchise records in: Spain on $10.6m (Eu7.8m) and 1.4m admissions from 600 prints; Australia on $14.4m (A$16.8m) and 1.6m admissions from 500 for the industry's fifth biggest opening weekend; and South Korea on $12.1m (KRW 11.1bn) and 1.75m admissions from 390 for the industry's fifth biggest opening weekend.
The film also set new franchise records and the industry's second biggest openings in Mexico on $10m (Ps 107.6m) and 2.6m admissions from 1,030, and Brazil on $7.1m (R$13.4m) and 1.7m admissions from 725 prints. Coming up are launches in Russia on Jul 19, Japan on Jul 20, and China on Aug 11.
WBPI's Ocean's Thirteen added $4.4m from more than 3,400 prints in 54 territories for an even $150m.
DreamWorks/Paramount's Transformers had to make do with second place in the overseas arena, but still gave executives much to be happy with as it approached $150m. The action romp added $35.9m from 3,793 locations in 33 territories and currently stands at $146.4m, powered by an industry record opening in China of $12.6m from 300 venues.
It also opened in Israel on $249,000 from 30 sites, which was in line with the release last year of Mission: Impossible III. Playing strongly in its third weekend, Transformers added $5.7m from 440 screens and dropped 47% in South Korea for $38m, and added $3.2m from 460 sites in Russia after tumbling 56% in the second weekend for $12.1m.
The film overtook Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End in Malaysia to become the second biggest film ever as it added $550,000 from 61 screens and fell 50% for $4.2m.
Shrek the Third is still packing a punch and grossed $18.7m from 5,390 venues in 54 territories for $361.5m. The animated comedy added $5m from 483 sites in the UK and dropped 51% for $61.1m, and raised the total in France by $2m from 819 screens after a 51% drop for $38.3m.
Fox International's Die Hard 4.0 grossed $17.7m from 6,900 screens in 49 markets for $123m. In second weekend holds, the action sequel added $3.9m from 462 screens in the UK to ranks third on $18.3m, $2.6m from 747 in France to rank second on $10.8m, and $1.1m from 654 in Mexico to rank a possible second on $4.4m.
In the third weekend, Die Hard 4.0 grossed $2.5m from 705 in Japan to rank third as the top Hollywood film and has amassed $19.5m, and $1.9m from 874 in Germany to rank a possible second on $17.3m.
Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer added $3.2m overall from 4,000 screens in 39 markets and has amassed $104.5m.
Ratatouille added $5.8m from 2,098 screens in 13 territories and has now grossed $30m for Buena Vista International.
In the second weekends, Mexico was the Pixar film's best market and took $2m from 688 screens after a 50% drop to rank second on $8.9m. It fell 34% in Brazil on $870,000 from 308 for $3.4m, and dropped a mere 17% in Argentina on $575,000 from 165 sites for $1.8m.
Russia was the big story in third weekend holdovers as Ratatouille added $675,000 from 450 for $8.6m, which is the biggest animated result ever for a Disney release.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End consolidated its position as the fifth biggest international release as $4.4m from 4,746 screens in 96 territories nudged the tally to $634.8m. Passing the second Pirates film's $642.2m final gross for fourth place is now just a question of time.
Globally At World's End also ranks fifth on $939m. Japan was the key driver this weekend and generated $1.8m from 657 screens to become the film's biggest territory on $81.7m.
Universal/UPI's comedy Knocked Up is providing a comical alternative to Harry Potter and Transformers for the masses in Australia, where $2m from 224 sites and a 33% drop in the second weekend was enough to move the film into third place on $6.7m.
Judd Apatow's film should pass the $6.8m final tally of his earlier release, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, on Monday. Knocked Up opens around the world from now until October.
Evan Almighty grossed $200,000 from 150 sites from eight territories and currently stands at $4.4m. There are 50 more territories to open for this comedy including South Korea on Jul 26, the UK on Aug 3, Germany on Aug 9, and France on Aug 15.
White Noise 2, which UPI has for Latin America and France, opened in Mexico on $260, 000 from 148 venues and ranked sixth. The supernatural thriller has grossed $355,000 from France and Mexico.
Two more comedies remain active. Hot Fuzz continues in 12 territories and has grossed $53.8m, while Mr Bean's Holiday is still playing in 14 territories and has amassed $185.5m after 16 weeks. It opens in China and South Korea on Jul 27 and Aug 16 respectively.
Sony Pictures Releasing International's horror film Hostel: Part II added $1m from 850 screens in 21 markets for $12.3m, powered by a $400,000 number seven launch in France on 138 screens.