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Monday, 19 November, 2001, 11:26 GMT
Potter smashes box office record
Harry Potter
Harry Potter's three young stars have charmed audiences
By entertainment correspondent Tom Brook in New York

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has broken just about every US box office record bringing in a mammoth $93.5m (65.7m), based on studio estimates, in its opening weekend.

The previous record for a non-holiday weekend opening was held by Planet of the Apes, which grossed $68m (48m) when it was released earlier this year.

In the UK, the boy wizard's 16m opening take was way ahead of the previous record holder, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, which took 9.5m in 1999.


We have shattered every existing industry record - we just feel absolutely sensational

Dan Fellman
Warner Brothers
Potter fans flew in to London from the US and Europe to see the film open on Friday, simultaneously with the US release.

In the US Harry Potter even beat the $72.1m (51m) collected in three days in 1997 by The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which held the record for a film opening on a holiday weekend.

The film also broke American single day box office records on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, by bringing in $31.6m, $32.9m, and an estimated $29m respectively on each of those three days.

Delight

The previous single day record had been held by Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, which posted $28.5m (20m) on its opening day in 1999.

For Warner Brothers, the studio that produced Harry Potter, the film's record breaking box office was greeted with almost giddy delight.

The studio's head of distribution, Dan Fellman, told BBC News Online: "I'm so excited with the performance of this movie in America, we have shattered every existing industry record. We just feel absolutely sensational!"

Harry Potter
The film boasts lots of special effects
The film's performance was much stronger than had been expected and the record numbers even startled experienced box office trackers.

Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Company in Los Angeles said: "I'm actually amazed, because we knew it would be big.

"These grosses are unprecedented, no film has ever done over $30m in a single day, and here it's done it twice!"

'Optimistic'

Already there is speculation that Harry Potter will now beat the record- breaking worldwide box office gross of $1.8bn (1.26bn) amassed by Titanic.

At Harry Potter's New York premiere one of the film's actors, Robbie Coltrane, had told reporters: "I think it's going to hammer Titanic, I am very, very optimistic."

But Dan Fellman at Warner Brothers was cautious, saying: "I really won't make that kind of a forecast. Let's just see where it takes us."

On Harry Potter's chances of beating Titanic's worldwide grosses, Paul Dergarabedian notes: "All I can say if any film has the chance to do it, this looks like it will be the one."

Titanic broke records because of a strong repeat business and already there are indications that Harry Potter will benefit from the same forces.

Repeat visits

But Dergarabedian points out that Titanic's box office was driven by teenage girls going back over and over again.

With Harry Potter it is going to be a different demographic, with young children as well as teenagers making repeat visits.

Richard Harris as Dumbledore
Richard Harris is Hogwarts head Dumbledore
The film's opening was accompanied by frenzied activity at many US cinemas. At Hollywood's famed Mann's Chinese Theatre there were long queues as Potter fans waited patiently to see the film.

Among moviegoers there was generally an air of satisfaction. Bev Gansberger, from Winters in California said: "I loved it, it could have been much longer as far I was concerned. I would have sat through another two hours."

She saw the film with her grandson Hank Gallegos, who gave actor Daniel Radcliffe high marks for his portrayal of Harry Potter.

Gallegos said: "I thought he did a good job, I think they picked him well."

Critical reviews

The positive word-of-mouth and strong box office contrast strongly with the less than ecstatic reviews the film received in several US publications.

The New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell declared that "the most highly awaited movie of the year has a dreary, literal-minded competence, following the letter of the law as laid down by the author".

The entertainment industry trade paper Variety was also less than complimentary, with its reviewer Todd McCarthy writing that Harry Potter "never takes on a life or soul of its own". He branded the film "a near perfect commercial and cultural commodity".

Alan Rickman plays Professor Snape
Alan Rickman plays Professor Snape
Although the film has created some jubilation in Hollywood because of its commercial success, it has done little to ease concerns that mainstream film artistry remains in a perilous state.

Usually by this time of the year several movies have emerged that are deemed Oscar worthy, but so far 2001 has yielded hardly any strong best picture candidates.

Anxiety

Doomsayers believe the safe cautious corporate filmmaking, as epitomised by Harry Potter, has now become the dominant modus operandi, leaving little room for artistic visionaries or risk-takers.

Although the film industry has been wracked by anxiety since the 11 September terrorist attacks box office has held up very strongly.

News of Harry Potter's strong performance will only help calm remaining fears of a possible decline in movie-going as the US economy shows signs of recession.

Warner Brothers can also now sit back, relatively confident that the studio appears to have established a powerful Harry Potter movie franchise that with the planned sequels will bring them a bonanza of dollars in years to come.

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The BBC's Catherine Marston
"Even the producers can't believe it"
See also:

07 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Harry Potter's magician
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