THURSDAY PM: Warner Bros announced tonight the new Harry Potter made $44.2 million from its 4,285 locations on its opening day in North America. That was good enough to score the biggest Wednesday ever, beating Spider-Man 2 which previously had the record with $40.4 million. Potter set the fifth largest day in movie history. Overseas, HP took in an estimated $29.2 mil for Wednesday from 29 countries, scoring the biggest industry opening day in Holland and Belgium, and the 2nd highest opening in France, Italy and Brazil. The Order Of the Phonix had the biggest opening for the HP franchise in 22 countries, including France, Italy, Spain, Holland, belgium, Australia, Korea and Brazil. Smart people around Hollywood are emailing me that they think the pic could make $150 mil domestic, even $175 mil, over the 5-day long weekend. That’s more than the $125M my cautious box office gurus are predicting, and way more than the $100M Warner Bros is projecting. Meanwhile, nationwide ticketseller Fandango says 95% of buyers are rating Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix a “Must Go.” Can this fifth pic in the franchise cure American moviegoers of their sequel-itis?

WEDNESDAY PM: J.K. Rowling’s franchise continues to be a goldmine for Warner Bros, with the fifth film, Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, raking in $12 million for its Wednesday opening midnight shows in 2,311 theaters. That beats the record set by 2003’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King ($8 million). harrypotterandphoenix_bigposter.jpgMy box office gurus are predicting $40 million from a whopping 4,285 venues for today, so it’ll be neck and neck with Spider-Man 2 which scored the biggest Wednesday ever of $40.4M. Overall, my experts say the 5-day long weekend could go as high as $125 mil and the 3-day Friday through Sunday to the mid-$70s. Warner is trying to lower expectations and predicting the pic should break $100 mil over the 5-day debut.

This is the largest worldwide release of any Harry Potter film, and any Warner Bros movie, for that matter. (Which just goes to show how much the studio believes in the kid.) Overseas, Phoenix is already a huge No. 1 hit everywhere. Early figures from 8 countries in Asia/Pacific plus France are adding up to $13.7M. It’s scored the biggest Harry Potter opening in France $5.9M for 3rd highest opening day of all time), Australia ($3M with Top 5 highest opening day of all time), Korea, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Philippines and Malaysia.

hp5csmaller.jpgNow, remember: the film has “aged up” since the beginning of the series (2001’s Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone) and now Daniel Radcliffe is giving interviews about sex (!). For weeks, the fivequel has been tracking on a par with the the last Potter film, 2005’s Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire. All the Harry pics open within the range of $88M to $103M. But the enormous box office strength of this summer’s tentpole blockbusters still in theaters could prove tough. Especially because this is the first Potter opened in July and with a 5-day run. But I say never bet against Harry because the whole world loves him (myself included). And as long as Warner Bros keeps making these franchise films, the studio can sustain all those loser romantic comedies it churns out with shocking regularity.