Books' fans await Harry Potter's film debut, and so does Hollywood

Wednesday, October 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Howard Katz, a 75-year-old dentist in Manhattan, can't wait until mid-November. Neither can 11-year-old Anna Harris in Utah.

Years and miles apart, they share one thing: They're readers who are wild about Harry Potter. And they're eagerly awaiting the movie version of the boy wizard's first adventure.

``I want to go into the theater and see what they do with it. ... I want a ride,'' said Katz.

``Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'' premieres in London on Sunday (the British title is ``Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone'') and hits theaters Nov. 16. Based on the first of author J.K. Rowling's best-selling series, the movie follows the adventures of Harry, an orphan boy who is invited to become a student at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The movie _ directed by Chris Columbus and starring little-known Daniel Radcliffe as Harry _ faces giant expectations not only among the book's fans but at the box office.

Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box-office tracking company Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, said ``Sorcerer's Stone'' could break opening-day and opening-weekend records.

``It's just a dream come true for kids,'' said Dergarabedian, who has already seen the film and liked it. ``It is one of the most anticipated films ever, and I think it will live up to that.''

Since it is the first in a potential series, it's especially important to the filmmakers that the movie do well, Dergarabedian said. And it is expected to usher in a strong end of the year for the industry, along with ``Monsters, Inc.'' and ``Lord of the Rings.''

There was no word from Warner Bros. on how many of the nation's 6,979 theaters would show Harry Potter; the record is held by ``Mission: Impossible 2,'' which opened in May 2000 in 3,653 theaters.

In Logan, Utah, Anna and her 8-year-old brother, Ian, thought they had hit on the perfect way to see ``Sorcerer's Stone'' on opening day. After hearing that their uncles cut school to see ``Star Wars'' in 1977, they suggested to their mother that she take them out of school to see Harry.

``The matinee would be right when I have gym and lunch,'' Anna said, stressing that she wouldn't be missing any academic classes.

Mom wasn't swayed.

``We're not going to be skipping school for a movie,'' said Lynette Harris. But she admitted, ``We probably will have someone in line'' for tickets to an evening show that day.

Lizzie Ruiz plans to invite friends to see the movie with her on her 10th birthday, Nov. 17, in Seguin, Texas, where she is a member of the St. James Catholic School's Harry Potter book club.

``I've been waiting for it all year,'' said the stringbean fourth-grader, her wide brown eyes magnified by glasses.

``They're saying it's going to be awesome. And my friend said it's going to be tight. They're starting to say that at school now. It means awesome.''

She was looking forward to hearing the characters speak in British accents, instead of the Texas-tinted voices she's been hearing in her mind. And she was curious to see how the movie creates unicorns and multicolored blood _ though she doubts it could live up to her imagination.

``In the book, you can imagine things your own way and it kind of ruins it when you see it,'' she said. ``But it seems interesting to see how other people saw it.''

Max Konetzki, a 9-year-old from Colorado Springs, Colo., said the movie may be even better than the book ``because of all the graphics and stuff.''

``We're going to wait until the lines die down'' before seeing it, he said.

For 7-year-old Evan Jastraub, who dressed as Harry at a Halloween costume contest at an Indianapolis mall, the movie is just another opportunity to see his hero.

``He really thinks that Hogwarts exists in London,'' said Evan's mother, Lacey Marchand. ``He really does think this is real.''

Not only kids are looking forward to the movie. Jenny Burns, 25, of McKinney, Texas, said she and her husband plan to see it even if they're the only adults in the theater.

``I just laugh about it, seeing the kids being so excited about it. And I'm just as excited about it,'' she said.

At the Multnomah County Library in Portland, Ore., there are five Harry Potter theme parties planned in November at branch libraries. All 1,000 copies of Rowling's four volumes remain checked out, with a waiting list.

``Over the last month or two, there has been more interest in Harry Potter _ but it never really went away,'' said library assistant Erika Bury.

Many fans worry about whether the moviemakers will stay true to the book.

``If they don't do it properly, they can kill it,'' said Katz, the Manhattan dentist. But he said he was reassured by knowing that Rowling was involved in the production.

``It will be absolutely fabulous if they hew to the story line of it,'' he said.