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'Harry Potter' makes $31 million to set first-day record

Sunday, November 18, 2001

LOS ANGELES -- Harry Potter and his flying broomstick are sweeping away box-office records.

The first big-screen adventure of the boy wizard, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," grossed $31.3 million in its debut Friday, the highest single-day take ever, according to distributor Warner Bros.

The previous record-holder was "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace," which took in $28.5 million on opening day in 1999.

"Harry Potter" may even break its own single-day record. Warner Bros. expected the movie to take in more money Saturday than it did on opening day, said Dan Fellman, the studio's head of distribution.

At that level of business, "Harry Potter" is virtually assured of shattering the record for best three-day debut, set by "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" with $72.1 million in 1997.

"It's phenomenal. We did well in the early shows, in the late shows. The audiences are every single age category, right across the board," Fellman said. "You can't break these records without establishing a success story in every quadrant."

Fellman would not estimate how much money "Harry Potter" might take in for the rest of the weekend.

But Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations, said "Harry Potter" should top $90 million after its first three days.

That would rival the $92.7 million "The Lost World" grossed in its first four days over Memorial Day, one of the year's busiest weekends at movie theaters. That number for "The Lost World" even includes about $2 million the movie took in from showings during Thursday night sneak previews.

Fastest to $100 million

"Harry Potter" also is likely to hit the $100 million mark faster than any other movie has. "The Phantom Menace" reached that point in five days. Dergarabedian said "Harry Potter" should top $100 million in just four days.

"It's unprecedented," Dergarabedian said. "Any studio would be happy to have a $31 million weekend for a new movie, and here, they've got a single day at that level."

The movie is based on the first of British author J.K. Rowling's planned seven-book adventure series about a boy magician's adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The first four books have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide.

Directed by Chris Columbus, "Harry Potter" stars Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, and Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as his pals Ron and Hermione. Members of the adult cast includes Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane and Alan Rickman.

The movie opened in a record 3,672 theaters on about 8,200 screens, nearly a fourth of the nation's movie screens. Demand for the film was so strong that some theaters started special screenings at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

The success of "Harry Potter" pushes Hollywood further toward breaking its overall box-office record for the year. Revenues this year are expected to top $8 billion, beating last year's record of $7.7 billion.

"This is good for the industry," Dergarabedian said. "It gets people in the mood to go to the movies and exposes them to marketing for other upcoming films. It just creates more movie-going."

Big films still to come this year include next month's "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "Ali," "The Shipping News," "Vanilla Sky" and "Ocean's Eleven."

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