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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 20:07 GMT
Potter sponsor Coke under attack
Cocal-Cola sponsors the Harry Potter film
Trouble brewing: Potter sponsor Coca-Cola is under fire
Demonstrators angry at Coca Cola's sponsorship of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone have staged a protest outside a screening of the film in Washington.

The protesters accuse the soft drinks giant of using its sponsorship of the movie to sell "junk food" to children.

US interest group the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) claims rising consumption of soft drinks over the past 25 years has helped to fuel rising levels of obesity.

In the UK, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, as the film is called - retaining the title of JK Rowling's novel - has made history by conjuring up $5m (3.4m) in limited previews on Saturday.

Obesity fear

The Washington-based CSPI is a non-profit-making group that focuses on health and environmental issues.

The CSPI says increased soft-drink consumption in the US over the past 25 years has contributed to greater rates of obesity.

Executive director Michael Jacobson has set up a website inviting Potter fans to join him in appealing to JK Rowling to "save Harry" from any future tie-ins with Coca-Cola.

He also calls on the fictional wizard's creator to donate her royalties from the deal to campaigns for improving nutrition.

The train leaves from London's Kings Cross station
Mystery train: the Hogwarts Express takes pupils to school

Coca Cola has pledged $18m (12.3m) to literacy initiatives as part of its involvement with the Harry Potter film.

A spokesman for the company said: "To characterise our sponsorship of the film, and our promotion of the magic of reading, as inappropriate and to infer a connection with health and wellness of children simply misses the point for the sake of sensationalism.

"We find it ironic that Michael Jacobson and the CSPI are using Harry Potter to promote his agenda."

Coca-Cola signed a $150m (103m) partnership with AOL Time Warner Inc in February that made it the sole global marketing partner for the film.

Breaking records

Warner Brothers, which made the film, has not yet released a figure for previews in Britain on Sunday.

But Saturday's takings alone already eclipse the previous two-day record - the $2.9m (1.9m) netted in 1999 by Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

The UGC cinema chain said ticket sales have gone "through the roof".

The film's UK performance at the weekend has boosted expectations that Harry Potter will break all international records.

Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Ron and Hermione
Market forces: Hermione casts a spell

US film industry analysts are quoted as saying the $125m (86m) film could gross $70m (48m) in the first three days after its US opening.

According to one, the seven-film franchise could generate nearly $10bn (6.8bn) in gross revenue and about $2bn (1.4bn) in profit for AOL Time Warner, including $300m (206m) during the next 12 months.

However, Warner's Alan Horn, who was behind the vast promotional campaign for the film, has said: "I'm very reluctant to put any numbers on our expectations."

Executives are said to be keen to avoid raising expectations for the film's box-office performance to unrealistic levels.

See also:

18 Oct 01 | Business
Coke attacked for Harry Potter links
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