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The finale to the long-running Harry Potter series opened with a flourish, setting a new domestic-opening weekend record and taking in nearly half a billion dollars world-wide.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2,” from Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. Pictures, earned an estimated $168.6 million at 4,375 North American locations, beating the $158.4 million earned in 2008 by “The Dark Knight,” which opened at 4,366 locations.

The eighth Potter film is on track to become the highest-grossing adaptation in the franchise, which has grossed $6.3 billion dollars world-wide since the first film, “Harry Potter and Sorcerer’s Stone,” opened 10 years ago.

Based on the second half of the seventh and final novel in J.K. Rowling’s best-selling “Harry Potter” series, “Deathly Hallows 2” earned $43.5 million from midnight screenings in 3,800 locations early Friday morning. It ended the day with a record-breaking $92.1 million, surpassing the previous single-day record of $72.7 million earned by “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” in 2009.

The high gross of “Deathly Hallows 2,” which features a final showdown between the titular boy-wizard and his mortal enemy, Lord Voldemort, was aided by 3-D ticket sales, which made up 43% of the box office market share. The latest film is the only “Potter” title to be released in 3-D, though its predecessor “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” was originally slated to be released in 3-D, but was ultimately distributed as a 2-D film.

Overseas, the film earned $307 million from over 20,000 screens in 59 countries, bringing its world-wide cumulative gross to over $475 million, Warner Bros. estimated.

In an interview Sunday Dan Fellman, Warner Bros.’s president of domestic distribution, called the end of the franchise “bittersweet.”

More than just a film series, the “Harry Potter” brand has spawned nearly $20 billion in retail sales for Warner and its partners and given the studio $1 billion in profits, making it one of the most valuable film franchises in modern Hollywood.

The biggest domestic debut prior to “The Dark Knight,” also a Warner Bros. release, was “Spider-Man 3,” from Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures, which earned $151.1 million its first weekend in 2007. Source

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