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''Azkaban'' has highest gross for Potter franchise

”Azkaban” has highest gross for Potter franchise. The third installment brings in the most bucks thus far, says Dave Karger

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Puberty has been very, very good to Harry Potter. After receiving the best reviews of all the Potter films, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” scored the best opening weekend of the three, grossing $92.6 million in its first three days, according to studio estimates.

That figure tops the $90.3 million and $88.4 million earned by the first two Potter movies, respectively and counts as the No. 3 top debut of all time, behind “Spider-Man” and “Shrek 2.” It also puts to rest speculation that a Potter film would have a tougher time bringing in the big bucks in the more competitive summer season (the first two were released in November). “Azkaban” saw huge business on opening day (an estimated $38.2 million) before slipping a bit to approximately $31.4 million on Saturday. By contrast, “Shrek 2” saw bigger box-office receipts on its first Saturday than it did on its first Friday. Apparently the most rabid Harry fans needed to catch “Azkaban” the minute it opened.

“Shrek 2” took a big hit, falling 49 percent to $37 million in its third weekend. But it did become the fastest film ever to cross the $300 million mark, accomplishing that feat in just 18 days. (The previous record-holder was “Spider-Man,” which took 22 days.) With a total so far of $313.6 million, “Shrek 2” now stands as the No. 15 top-grossing film of all-time. By the end of next weekend, it will likely enter the top 10 and surpass “Finding Nemo” as the top-grossing animated film ever.

“The Day After Tomorrow” saw a steeper decline of 59 percent in its second weekend to $28.2 million, bringing its total to $128.8 million. As expected, “Raising Helen” and “Troy” completed the top five with $6.7 million and $5.7 million, respectively. But this weekend was all about Master Potter, who, despite competition next weekend from Vin Diesel (“The Chronicles of Riddick”) and Nicole Kidman (“The Stepford Wives”) could cast the biggest spell on moviegoers for two weeks in a row.