General News

"Potter" already biggest opener in U.K. --before it opens!

Nov 14, 2001 | 4:20am EST

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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