“Potter” already biggest opener in U.K. –before it opens!

Preview screenings of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
(as it is titled in the U.K. and in several other countries,
including Canada) in 490 theaters in Britain last weekend indicated that
predictions that the film will set a record at the box office next week
are solidly based.

The film grossed $9,716,956, according to the British
trade magazine Screen International — an average of $19,830 per
theater.

In Britain, the previews outshone the year’s best starter,
Hannibal, which earned $9.3 million (including previews that
brought in $1.1 million) when it premiered last February.

While
enjoyable, however, the film falls far short of triumphant cinema.

Anthony Lane in The
New Yorker,
for example, bestows great praise on some of the film’s
early special effects, but calls those at the end “secondhand.”

Of the
climax, he writes, “We wait with open mouths, and what do we get? Pure
graphics: computer-generated imagery, writhing in anguish — in need of
the sorcerer’s stone, apparently, although it looked to me as if the
forces of ultimate evil were badly wanting the men’s room.”

After watching the movie, he suggests young viewers will not come away with
the same “aftertaste” that they experience after reading the J.K.
Rowling book, he comments, “no sense of anything truly momentous being
at stake.”

Emanuel Levy, writing in the British trade publication
Screen International, concludes that “from a strictly artistic
viewpoint, Harry Potter is not a particularly exciting film. …The excessive running time (two-and-a-half hours) will limit the number
of showings per day and may also prove trying for more mature viewers.”

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