This past weekend, almost two full decades after its release, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone finally joined the billion-dollar movie club.
The final box office surge to get it over the threshold comes courtesy of China, where the movie was rereleased in 3D and IMAX. This past weekend, it hit #1 at the box office in China, pulling in $13.6 million across 16,000 screens, adding enough to its total to see it officially cross the billion-dollar mark.
Harry Potter‘s generous haul in China this past weekend serves to underscore what a powerful force the Chinese market has become in the past decade. When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was first released in China in January 2002, the Chinese market was far from being the world’s second-largest moviegoing audience. At the time, multiplexes were only just starting to become a thing in China and its own film industry was in the middle of a top-to-bottom overhaul and reform. It was also released entirely in 2D and options like IMAX screens were unheard of. So different is the Chinese moviegoing landscape today that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has earned more in the three days of its rerelease so far than it did in its entire initial run in 2002. In total, the movie now has a lifetime total of $21.4 million in China, meaning almost 2/3 of its entire total so far was earned in the past weekend alone.
This isn’t the first time Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has had a rerelease in either domestic or overseas markets, but it’s been by far the most successful, thanks, in large part to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. After being shut down across the country since the beginning of the year, Chinese theaters are slowly starting to reopen, and Harry Potter benefitted from both more screens opening and an easing of capacity restrictions from 30% to 50% this past weekend. It’s also benefitting from the fact that, as Hollywood studios continue to push back release dates for big tentpoles while waiting for the U.S. market to open back up, theaters, including in China, have been relying on classic film rereleases, repertory screenings, and foreign films that had been set to open in China earlier this year but then got stuck in the movie release bottleneck created by the shutdown.
Warner Bros. is thrilled with the continued love for the franchise. Andrew Cripps, head of international distribution for Warner Bros., said he’s pleased to see a new generation embracing it:
“We are thrilled to see ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ delight a new generation of audiences. The popularity of the film with moviegoers in China, who are discovering it for the first time, proves that the appeal of these stories is truly timeless and universal.”
While the Chinese audience is certainly different than the American moviegoing audience, Harry Potter‘s success even 20 years later makes the case that the doomcriers predicting the end of movie theaters and the theatrical moviegoing experience are perhaps somewhat premature in their estimations. There’s still a collective appetite from audiences to see big-budget movies on the big screen in theaters, whether it be new releases or rereleases of classic films for a new generation to discover. After all, there is a timeless cool to the Harry Potter books and movies.
Various movies from the Harry Potter franchise are back in limited theaters for rerelease.