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Friday, 16 November, 2001, 00:00 GMT
Potter hits the big screen
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
New boy: Harry Potter and the Hogwarts Express
Harry Potter fans are finally going to see the much-awaited film, which opens at cinemas in the UK and US on Friday and looks set to break box office records.

Advance ticket sales in the UK have already topped the £1m mark, with the Odeon cinema group dedicating nearly half of its total 599 cinema screens to showing the film.

US takings are widely expected to top the previous opening weekend box office record of $72m (£50m) set by Jurassic Park II: The Lost World in 1997.

Such is the US demand to be the first to see the movie that midnight screenings have been arranged.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, as the film is known in the US, is showing in some 3,500 cinemas nationally.

Daniel Radcliffe
Harry's scar is a constant reminder of his victory over You Know Who

It had its Los Angeles première on Wednesday.

Compared with its gala screenings in London and New York, it turned out to be a low-key affair as the only British cast member to put in an appearance was John Cleese.

The comic actor, who plays the ghost Nearly Headless Nick in the adaptation of JK Rowling's first bestselling book, has a home in the States.

Other actors, such as Dame Maggie Smith, Richard Harris and Alan Rickman stayed away, along with the child stars of the movie.

"This film is creating a rare phenomenon in the industry and expectations are very high," said a Warner Brothers spokesman.

The Senator Theater in Baltimore, Maryland, was so inundated with requests for early showings it decided it would be ahead of the pack by screening it at midnight.

The train leaves from London's Kings Cross station
The Hogwarts Express leaves from platform 9¾

"For months and months, we've been receiving calls about when the first opportunity to see Harry Potter will be, and we realised many of these calls were from adults. It's an eight-to-80 thing," said cinema owner Tom Kiefaber.

As if to illustrate Kiefaber's point, the oldest and youngest actors in the film have spoken of their roles in the most glowing terms.

Daniel Radcliffe, 12, who plays Harry. said: "It makes me feel very privileged to be playing him.

Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Ron and Hermione
Hermione: casting a spell over the box office

"It's really exciting because he's got such an interesting life. It's really cool."

At 71, not much impresses Richard Harris, who plays Hogwarts school headmaster Dumbledore.

But the veteran Irishman enthused: "I loved the material in the script, and it was so well written that all the hard work was done for me."

Harris's only worry was that he might appear too young.

"The only difficulty I had was the voice. I may be 71 but Dumbledore is 2,000 years old, and I thought the energy and rhythm of my voice would not suit this image."

See also:

16 Nov 01 | Film
Rise of the blockbuster
16 Nov 01 | Film
Potter fans fly in for film
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