TV, Film, and Entertainment News Daily

Butts In Seats | How Many Turned Out For Harry Potter Finale?

Every Monday we all gather on the Internet or around the proverbial water cooler to discuss how much money such-and-such movie made over the weekend. What does that mean, though? If a movie grosses $500 million in three days, it’s plenty impressive, but how many people actually SAW it? That’s what “Butts in Seats” is all about. Using an average ticket price of $15 – the rough median between 2D and 3D/IMAX ticket prices – “Butt in Seats” gives you an idea of just how many people crammed their posteriors into theater seats over the course of the weekend.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 came out swinging over the weekend, shattering multiple box office records both in North America and overseas. The $168.5 million domestic take comes out to roughly 11.2 million Butts in Seats. Potter earned $307 million in foreign markets, which breaks down to roughly 20.5 million tickets sold. The grand total of $475.5 million then equates to an estimated 31.7 million Butts in Seats around the globe. Ticket prices vary a little more outside North America, so take the foreign and worldwide figures with a slightly larger grain of salt.

Back to North America, Potter knocked out former opening weekend record-holder The Dark Knight, which earned $158.4 million and drew roughly 10.6 million viewers to theaters. Bear in mind, though, that the 2008 release was a 2D-only affair; even with IMAX in the mix, that viewer count is probably a bit higher. With the gap between it and Potter roughly half a million, it’s a safe bet that comparable numbers of movie-goers turned out for each.

Trailing behind in a distant second to Potter was Michael Bay’s 2011 summer blockbuster Transformers: Dark of the Moon, with $21.3 million at the box office and just 1.4 million Butts in Seats. Not a bad showing for two weeks after release, especially with a crowd-pleaser like Potter getting in the way. Transformers opened with $97.9 million earned domestically, and 6.5 million theatergoers.

Let’s compare these now to the weekend’s lowest of the top 10 performers, Woody Allen’s latest, Midnight in Paris, which also opened on Friday. The Sony Classics romantic comedy took in $1.9 million over the weekend, which comes out to around 127,000 tickets sold using the blockbuster math. There’s no 3D or IMAX release for Midnight though, so using a median ticket price of $10 we get 190,000 Butts in Seats, less than two percent of Potter’s estimated draw. Midnight in Paris is also notably Allen’s strongest box office opening ever.

Stepping back to Harry’s domestic showing of 11.2 million Butts in Seats, let’s see how it fared against the top players on TV as an apples-to-slightly-different-apples comparison. TV shows only get a single night to do their business, but network programming – the biggest performer – is free to watch. America’s Got Talent, the nation’s latest reality craze, drew 6.1 million viewers on Tuesday.


  • Grintster

    Inflation, 3D prices and such are not the only factors to be taken in consideration when rating the profitability of movies and movie franchises. In the of The Dark Knight, for instance, it cannot be discounted that the death of Heath Ledger (RIP) increased interest in, or the appeal for people to see it. Star Wars was re-issued in theaters, classics like Gone With the Wind was re-issued more than just a few times in cinemas.

    For me and countless fans of this series, all that matters is that this last Harry Potter didn’t have to break records — but it did. So we have heard the end of these analyses & comparisons. The end =)

  • JohnJ

    Your median might be a little high considering I paid $6.25 to see a Potter matinee. Would have been $8.50 if I’d sprung for 3D which I no longer do.  We don’t get held up nearly as much in small town midwest theaters as others seem to.

  • Geistbusters

    THANK YOU SPINOFF! Someone finally did this! I don’t care how much $ a movie makes, I want to know how many people were willing to see it.

  • Jmcreer

    This article is pointless, not to mention full of conjecture, which in the end means nothing at all.  I’m surprised McMillan isn’t the writer.

  • Adam Rosenberg

    It’s meant to be conjecture. There’s no real official accounting of attendance numbers, so we thought it would be interesting to consider how many bodies pile into theaters each week. Think of this as a platform for kicking off a discussion.

  • Michael Carpenter

    Don’t forget that America was much better off in the times of The Dark Knight, and the film industry was booming. It is not so now, which means lower attendance should be expected. However, it didn’t happen that way.

  • Jacob

    How is the film industry not booming right now? More and more movies are getting close to (and passing) the billion dollar mark.

  • Jacob

    Right, I paid $7.50. The only way a ticket would have come close to $15 for me was if it was after matinee, IMAX, and 3D. And even then, it’s $13.50.

  • Scarletspeed7

    Sorry, but records that the average ticket price (including 3D premiums) is currently 7.50.  Really gotta disagree with our 15 buck hypothesis.  I don’t know anywhere in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex that sells a ticket anywhere close to that amount.  The highest prices I’ve seen are ten bucks and that’s for a weekend night time 3D showing.  IMAX may be more but really…. 15 bucks ?  That is NOTHING like a “rough median”.  Noting that most theaters have discounted prices for daytime showings, for student tickets, for seniors, for small children, etc., and also noting that most 3D prices are not even remotely close to your guesstimation, I really gotta take umbrage with your numbers.

  • Adam Rosenberg

    I didn’t see that on BOM, but thanks for pointing it out. I’ve actually discussed this with a box office analyst and am reworking the concept around some new figures. The average ticket price is actually slightly lower than $7.50, but that falls pretty close. There are a few other details as well that should, overall, provide a more realistic picture next time. Sorry if you were put off.

  • Daleonsouth

    A head count of how many of us went the first weekend only because the teaser for “The Dark Knight Rises” was included would be interesting. . . Personally, I would have waited a week or two to see it.That said, the movie was very enjoyable.  

  • Jacob

    It wasn’t at every theater.