'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' hits $1 billion at box office 19 years after release due to COVID-19

Movie theaters report lowest ticket sales in more than 20 years

Box office receipts have plunged to a two-decade low amid coronavirus precaution. FOX Business’ Cheryl Casone with more.

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” has officially grossed $1 billion at the international box office almost two decades after its original release.

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The first in the eight-movie “Harry Potter” franchise is benefiting in a big way from the coronavirus pandemic, forcing theaters throughout the world to close their doors and major movie productions going on seemingly indefinite hold. The movie was re-released in international markets in 4K 3D and it’s bringing people back to theaters in droves where it’s safe.

According to Deadline, the biggest weekend numbers came from China, where “The Sorcerer’s Stone” (also known as “The Philosopher’s Stone”), grossed an estimated $13.6 million on 16,000 screens by Sunday. The outlet reports that $2.1 million of that total came from roughly 594 IMAX theaters. As a result, the movie became the second in the franchise from Warner Bros. to cross the $1 billion marker with an estimated total of $1,001,260,000. The final installment of the franchise, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” also topped the $1 billion marker when it came out in 2011.

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‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ is poised to make $1 billion. (Peter Mountain/WireImage)

A movie reaching such a milestone 19 years after its original release is unprecedented but not unexpected in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, when reissued movies are supporting the theater industry in many ways amid a slew of closures and guidelines restricting selling theaters to capacity, thus making the term “sold out” somewhat of a moot metric for success.

China’s overall three-day weekend was up 65% according to the outlet. The bump happens to coincide with restrictions on theater's capacity being eased to 50%.

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The fact that people are willing to go to the theater amid the ongoing pandemic is a good sign for the industry. However, it’s possible that the effects of the shutdown will be felt for years to come as the entertainment industry learns to value new metrics. Although markets like China have been able to reopen theaters, the virus continues to spread in the United States, thus shutting down Hollywood and making new releases few and far between.

A medical worker wearing a mask walks near the AMC movie theater in Times Square amid the coronavirus pandemic on May 7, 2020 in New York City. COVID-19 has spread to most countries around the world, claiming over 270,000 lives with over 3.9 million (Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

“For now, most of the traditionally acknowledged metrics of a movie’s performance – opening weekend gross, year-to-date numbers and year-over-year comparisons – have to take a back seat,” Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, told Variety of the North American market. “We need to interpret the reported data through the lens of this unusual and, indeed, unprecedented marketplace.”

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As studios weigh the pros and cons of skipping the typical theatrical release in favor of potentially lucrative video-on-demand rollouts, as Universal did with “Trolls World Tour” or what Disney will do with “Mulan,” the coronavirus’ rapid spread throughout the United States continues to force theaters in top money-driver cities like New York and Los Angeles to remain closed.

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