Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire opened as the weekend’s top film around the world, with $101.4m worth of tickets sold in North America, beating returns from any of the previous three Harry Potter films.

The film, in which the boy wizard Harry Potter has to test his magic skills against those of top students from two other schools in a tournament, ranks as the fourth-biggest in terms of US opening weekend revenues. The record is held by Spider-Man, which opened in 2002 with takings of $115m.

Warner Brothers, the studio owned by Time Warner that released the film, had expected opening weekend returns similar to last year’s Harry Potter film. In 2004, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban opened with $93.7m in North American weekend takings.

The latest film opened in 19 other countries over the weekend. The studio said it made $80m in ticket sales outside the US, with the film setting a record for a three-day opening in Britain with sales of $24.6m.

The new Harry Potter film is based on the book by JK Rowling, the British author, and was directed by a fellow Brit, Mike Newell.

Mr Newell is best-known for directing the comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Although box office receipts are by no means the biggest revenue source for films – Hollywood studios make more each year from DVD sales than they do
from the box office – the opening weekend can be important in terms of the excitement it generates about a film.

The higher than expected Harry Potter ticket sales come towards the end of a year of declining box office returns in the US.

Movie studios will hope that the success of Harry Potter will also generate excitement about other fantasy films that are due to be released soon, including Walt Disney’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and NBC Universal’s King Kong.

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