* Latest Potter earns $159.7 million in North America
* Foreign sales reach $237 million
* New film breaks records set by "Spider-Man 3" (Updates with international sales, new records)
LOS ANGELES, July 19 (Reuters) - The sixth movie in the formidable "Harry Potter" franchise whipped up the biggest worldwide opening of all time, selling an estimated $396.7 million worth of tickets during its first five days, distributor Warner Bros. Pictures said on Sunday.
The old record of $381.7 million was set by "Spider-Man 3" in 2007.
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" earned $159.7 million in the United States and Canada, the sixth-biggest five-day opening.
The international component stands at $237 million from 84 markets, also setting a new record. "Spider-Man 3" held the old mark with $230.5 million.
In North America, the film outpaced its predecessor, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," which opened to $139.7 million two years ago. That picture ended with $938 million worldwide, the seventh-biggest movie of all time before accounting for inflation.
Top international markets for the new film included Britain with $32.4 million, Germany with $23 million, France with $20.2 million and Japan with $18.2 million.
The film cost $235 million to make, the priciest yet in the franchise. Still, the franchise has been a lucrative one for the Time Warner Inc (TWX.N)-owned studio, with the first five movies generating $4.5 billion in ticket sales worldwide since 2001. Ancillary income from such outlets as home video and television rights sends the tally even higher.
The new film opened worldwide on Wednesday, not a moment too soon for fans of the boy wizard and his pals. It was originally scheduled to open in November, but Warner Bros. decided to delay it until summer, devastating Potterphiles around the globe.
The action revolves around secret plots involving Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his nemesis Draco (Tom Felton), as the visually stunning film takes viewers deeper into the dark side. There are also budding romances among the young stars. It marks the second consecutive Harry Potter film directed by David Yates, working from an adaptation by series regular Steve Kloves.
Two films are left in the franchise, whose first five movies have generated $4.5 billion worldwide since 2001. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," also with Yates at the helm, will be rolled out in two parts in 2010 and 2011. (Reporting by Dean Goodman)