``Harry Potter'' topples records with $93.5 million debut

Monday, November 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ For its next trick, ``Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'' could become the fastest movie to reach $100 million on Monday.

The movie based on the bestselling children's book about a boy wizard grossed $93.5 million in its first weekend, according to box-office estimates Sunday. That shattered the box-office debut record held by the 1997 dinosaur sequel ``The Lost World: Jurassic Park,'' which took in $72.1 million in its first three days.

Other records also fell by the wayside.

``Harry Potter'' broke the record for best single-day take with $31.6 million on Friday, then surpassed that draw Saturday by taking in $32.9 million. The estimated $29 million in ticket sales Sunday also toppled the previous best of $28.5 million by ``Star Wars: Episode I _ The Phantom Menace'' in its opening day in 1999.

If the box-office estimates hold and the movie brings in at least $6.5 million Monday, it would become the first film to hit the $100 million mark in four days. It took five days for ``Phantom Menace'' to reach that level.

``We obviously knew going in we were going to have a great opening,'' said Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros. ``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 Monday 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, 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.''

Other studios generally stayed out of the way of ``Harry Potter,'' with only a handful of new films opening, mostly in limited release. The biggest of those was ``The Wash,'' a car-wash comedy featuring Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, which grossed $3 million in 749 theaters.

``Novocaine,'' a black comedy starring Steve Martin as a dentist framed for murder, debuted in 105 theaters and took in $425,000.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures are to be released Monday.

1. ``Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,'' $93.5 million.

2. ``Monsters, Inc.'' $23 million.

3. ``Shallow Hal,'' $12.7 million.

4. ``Domestic Disturbance,'' $5.6 million.

5. ``Heist,'' $4.7 million.

6. ``The One,'' $4.2 million.

7. ``K-PAX,'' $3.3 million.

8. ``The Wash,'' $3 million.

9. ``Life As a House,'' $2.7 million.

10. ''13 Ghosts,'' $2.2 million.