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Can well-received 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' break awards curse for franchise?

July 15, 2009 |  2:54 pm

"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" opened today to very strong reviews, earning a jaw-dropping 96 among the top tier of reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. And the film broke the midnight screening box office record taking in $22.2 million in the wee small hours of this morning. Such an enthusiastic critical and commercial response to this sixth film in the series might finally mean poor Harry Potter can break the awards curse that has befallen the franchise.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Oscars movie news 1357986 Oscar voters just aren't wild about Harry. Since 2001, the first five films have netted just six Oscar nods with no wins to date.

And those first films have fared little better with other kudos, winning only single BAFTA, Saturn and Kids' Choice awards as well as three plaudits apiece from the BFCA and Teen Choice awards.

The first flick conjured up the most Oscar nods. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (2001) earned three nominations: art direction, costumes and score. It lost to, respectively, "Moulin Rouge!" "Moulin Rouge!" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring."

That first film rated 74 among the top critics surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes and 64 with Meta Critic and was the highest-grossing of the first five films with worldwide takings topping $976 million. 

"Sorcerer's Stone" contended for the top prize with the Producers Guild of America, losing to "Moulin Rouge!" That first film lost all seven of its BAFTA bids: best British film, supporting actor (Robbie Coltrane), costume design, production design, makeup and hair, sound and visual effects.

"Sorcerer's Stone" did win the Saturn Award for costumes and contended for eight more of those kudos. And it won the Broadcast Film Critics Award for best live action family film while Daniel Radcliffe got a nod for best child performance. It also won plaudits from the Casting Society of America and the Costume Designers Guild. However, that first film lost bids at both the Kids' Choice and Teen Choice awards as well as with the AFI Film Awards for special effects and the Art Directors Guild Award for production design.

Film No. 2 – "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" (2002) – earned a score of only 70 with the top critics at Rotten Tomatoes and a series low 63 at Meta Critic but still made $879 million worldwide. It was snubbed by the Oscars and lost all seven Saturn Awards races, including best fantasy film, best director and best performance by a younger actor (Daniel Radcliffe).

The film was also winless with the BAFTAs despite four nods. While it won the BFCA prizes for best live action family film and score, "Chamber of Secrets" lost at the Kids' Choice Awards and did not even merit a nod from the Teen Choice Awards.

While film No. 3 – "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (2004) – was the best-received of the first five rating of 90 at Rotten Tomatoes and 81 with Meta Critic, it made the least money with a worldwide box office tally of $795 million. It earned Oscar noms for music score and visual effects but lost to, respectively, "Finding Neverland" and "Spider-Man 2."

"Prisoner of Azkaban" was also blanked again at the Saturn Awards despite nine nods. While it was bested in its four competitive BAFTA bids, "Prisoner of Azkaban" did take the audience award determined by a popular vote. 

The movie vied unsuccessfully for three BCFA awards: best live action family film as well as young actor (Radcliffe) and young actress (Emma Watson). And though "Prisoner of Azkaban" lost the Kids' Choice Award for best movie, it did take the Teen Choice prize for best drama.

Film No. 4 – "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (2005) – did almost as well with the critics, scoring 89 at Rotten Tomatoes and 81 again at Meta Critic and made $896 million worldwide. The only Oscar bid cooked up by "Goblet of Fire" was for art direction (it lost to "Memoirs of a Geisha"). The movie contended unsuccessfully for eight Saturn Awards and the same three BCFA prizes as "Prisoner of Azkaban": best live action family film, young actor (Radcliffe) and actress (Watson).

"Goblet of Fire" was the first film in the franchise to win a BAFTA taking home the award for best production design while losing its other two bids.  That film was also the first to win the Blimp Award for favorite movie at the Kids' Choice Awards. And it also won best drama at the Teen Choice Awards.

The most recent film – "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (2007) – was the lowest-rated of the series on Rotten Tomatoes earning only 69 among the top tier while scoring 71 at Meta Critic. However,  it came second in the box office race with a worldwide total of $938 million. The film failed to rise to victory despite nine Saturn Awards nods and four BAFTA bids. It did win the popular vote Audience Award at BAFTA for a second time.

"Order of Phoenix" also contended unsuccessfully again for those same three BCFA prizes. And while the movie lost at the Kids' Choice Awards, it did win with the Teen Choice Awards once again.

However, Harry Potter has had the magic touch at the Grammys where two of Jim Dale's recordings won best children's spoken word album: "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (2000) and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" (2007).

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Photo: Warner Bros.

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