'Potter' makes old box-office records disappear in flash

Monday, November 19, 2001

LOS ANGELES -- Wizards vanquished lizards as "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" grossed $93.5 million in its first weekend, shattering the box-office debut record held by the dinosaur sequel "The Lost World: Jurassic Park."

Other records also fell by the wayside. "Harry Potter" posted the top three one-day box office hauls, according to studio estimates Sunday.

And it positioned itself to become the fastest movie to hit $100 million, with a shot at crossing that mark in its fourth day on Monday. It took five days to reach that level for "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace."

"Lost World" took in $72.1 million in its first three days over the 1997 Memorial Day weekend. If the box-office estimate holds when final numbers are reported Monday, "Harry Potter" will have surpassed the $90.1 million "Lost World" grossed in its first four days.

On Friday, "Harry Potter" broke the record for best single-day take with $31.6 million, topping the previous best of $28.5 million by "Phantom Menace" in its opening day in 1999.

On Saturday, "Harry Potter" broke its own record by taking in $32.9 million. And distributor Warner Bros. estimated the movie's Sunday ticket sales at $29 million, which would give the film the No. 3 best one-day gross.

"We obviously knew going in we were going to have a great opening," said Dan Fellman, Warner's head of distribution. "Nobody anticipated such a staggering number that would shatter every industry record."

Based on the first book of British author J.K. Rowling's adventure series about a school for wizards and witches, "Harry Potter" was directed by Chris Columbus and stars Daniel Radcliffe in the title role.

They have little time to bask in the film's success. Production on "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" begins today in London, with Warner planning to have it in theaters the weekend before Thanksgiving next year. The studio hopes to do the same with the third "Harry Potter" movie in 2003.

'Monsters' bet paid off

"Monsters, Inc.," the No. 1 film for the previous two weekends, fell to second place with $23 million. Disney's decision to put the animated tale into theaters two weeks before "Harry Potter" has paid off: "Monsters, Inc." set a record for best debut for an animated movie and had taken in $156.7 million in just 17 days.

The top 12 movies grossed $157.1 million, up 6.6 percent from the same weekend a year ago when four movies opened in wide release, including the blockbuster "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

The two-and-a-half-hour running time of "Harry Potter" limits the number of screenings that theaters can squeeze in each day. Warner compensated by debuting the film in a record 3,672 theaters, which showed it on about 8,200 screens -- nearly one-fourth of the nation's total.

"Harry Potter" averaged $25,467 a theater. "Monsters" averaged $19,332 in 3,237 theaters in its debut.

"I think in the wake of Sept. 11, people are looking for entertainment close to home," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the box office. "'Harry Potter' plays right into that. It's a fantasy world people can get out of the house and enjoy for a few hours, but stay relatively close to home."

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