By the Numbers: Nov. 21

So what is the world’s most famous apprentice wizard to do for an encore?

As anticipated, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone made history last weekend by earning a record-breaking $90.2 million in its first three days. The blockbuster-apparent lived up to expectations by earning $18.1 million more than previous record holder The Lost World: Jurassic Park. In doing so, Harry Potter also smashed the records for the best, second best and third best single-day grosses.

There was no magic Monday as Harry Potter, taking in $6.6 million for a total of $96.9 million, failed to become the quickest film to make $100 million. Harry Potter would have broken the record had its estimated weekend haul of $93.5 million held true.

Instead, Harry Potter had to wait until Tuesday to make more than $100 million. With $104.5 million in takings through Tuesday, Harry Potter now shares the record of earning $100 million in the fewest days with Star Wars: Episode One–The Phantom Menace, which crossed the milestone in five days in 1999 by bringing in $105.7 million.

Harry Potter will continue to make more money disappear from the pockets of muggles everywhere when the extended Thanksgiving holiday weekend begins Wednesday. Unlikely to be hurt by Wednesday’s high-profile new releases Spy Game and Black Knight, Harry Potter should retain the No. 1 spot without so much as the wave of a wand. The question is whether Harry Potter can break $200 million faster than Star Wars: Episode One–The Phantom Menace, which did so in 13 days.

This weekend also will determine how high Harry Potter will soar. If it manages to match or exceed the highest five-day Thanksgiving holiday grosses– $80.1 million by Toy Story 2, $73.5 million by Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole ChristmasHarry Potter will likely rocket to a total gross of $350-$400 million.

Regardless, this weekend’s smash opening should make turning up for work on the London set of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which begins filming this week, all the more a pleasure. Of course, the pressure is now on director Chris Columbus to recapture the magic of Harry Potter with the second of seven planned films based on J.K. Rowling’s series of books.

With Harry Potter safely ensconced at No. 1, the fight is on for the No. 2 spot. After making way at the top, previous box office champ Monsters, Inc. will likely yield the runner-up slot to Spy Game or Black Knight.

Black Knight sees motormouth comedian Martin Lawrence tumble through time to become an unlikely hero in 14th-century England. Once heralded as a post-Rush Hour vehicle for Chris Tucker, this latest variation on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court now ranks as an important test of Lawrence‘s box office appeal. Though he enjoyed his biggest hit last year with Big Momma’s House ($117.5 million), Lawrence lost his smirk this summer when the prophetically titled What’s the Worst That Could Happen? earned $32.2 million, a low for a Lawrence comedy since he shot to fame with 1995’s Bad Boys.

Black Knight, though, should connect with those who enjoyed the summer’s medieval romp A Knight’s Tale, which galloped to $56 million based on its rock ‘n ‘roll sensibilities.

Like Lawrence, Robert Redford needs a hit. Redford‘s recent offering, The Last Castle, fell at $17.9 million. Brad Pitt also could do with an out-and-out smash after starring in two modest hits–Snatch ($30 million) and The Mexican ($66.8 million)–that broke his recent string of bad luck of the box office. Accordingly, the pair reunite in Spy Game for the first time since Redford directed fellow golden boy Pitt in 1994’s A River Runs Through It.

Tony Scott, who directed Pitt in True Romance, orchestrates this globetrotting tale of international espionage with his typically fast and glossy fashion. Redford stars as a retiring CIA operative who has 24 hours to keep the Chinese government from executing captured protegee Pitt.

Partnering Redford and Pitt is enough to guarantee a Thanksgiving opening in line with $20 million that Scott‘s Enemy of the State debuted with in 1998. The current political climate also seems hospitable to a politically charged thriller, especially one built around an assassination attempt on a Middle Eastern terrorist leader.

Still, the future of Spy Game seems as murky as the assignments undertaken by its heroes. Redford carries much of the film–told predominately in flashback–which might alienate Pitt fans and prompt them to wait for him to appear in next month’s Ocean’s Eleven remake. Spy Game also is handicapped by a strained love story that could prove a deterrent for those eager for another Scott-helmed techno-thriller a la Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State. Competition also arrives next week in the form of Behind Enemy Lines, which features a more aggressively patriotic and action-oriented stand on the same story. Consequently, Spy Game will fall far short of the $91.3 million that Crimson Tide made in 1993 or the $111.5 million that Enemy of the State eventually accumulated.

Redford and Pitt can take comfort knowing that the holiday’s third new wide release, Out Cold, poses little or no threat to their covert operations. Jason London and pals head to Alaska for fun in the snow in this Disney teen caper also starring, of all bionic men, Lee Majors. Originally called 10 to 1, this snowboard-driven Road Trip was moved up from early 2002 seemingly without the benefit of a major advertising push. Given its PG-13 rating, Out Cold could prove too timid for teens weaned on such gross-out extravaganzas as There’s Something About Mary, American Pie and Road Trip.

This bodes well for Shallow Hal, which dropped 44 percent in its second weekend from $22.5 to $12.7 million. The Bobby and Peter Farrelly-directed farce total stands at $42.8 through Tuesday million, lagging behind the $55.3 million that their Me, Myself & Irene made by the end of its second weekend. Then again, Me, Myself & Irene reunited the brothers with Dumb and Dumber star Jim Carrey.

Shallow Hal does rank as Gwyneth Paltrow‘s biggest hit since Shakespeare in Love. Shallow Hal also should surpass the combined grosses of unlikely romantic lead Jack Black‘s previous offerings, High Fidelity ($27.2 million) and Saving Silverman ($19.3 million).

As expected, Monsters, Inc. lost a significant amount of business with the arrival of Harry Potter. Still, there’s no shame in any film enjoying a third weekend take of $22.7 million. Monsters, Inc.‘s total of $156.3 million exceeds that of Shrek ($148.3 million) and Toy Story 2 ($140.3 million) at the end of their third weekends. With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays still to come, Monsters, Inc. has a great shot at surpassing Shrek ($267.4 million) as the year’s top animated offering. Its total through Tuesday is $159.7 million.

The One, starring Jet Li, continued to freefall from one alternative universe to the next. The sci-fi epic dropped 55 percent in its third weekend, going from $9.1 million to $4.1 million. With $38.9 million collected through Tuesday, The One has surpassed the $36.8 million that Li‘s Kiss of the Dragon made this summer but is unlikely to match Romeo Must Die‘s $55.9 million.

Domestic Disturbance, pitting John Travolta against his son’s malevolent stepfather Vince Vaughn, held up reasonably well in its third weekend by dropping 38 percent. The Harold Becker-directed thriller has amassed $34.5 million through Tuesday, which isn’t exactly a display of Travolta at his most potent but it is a stronger performance than last year’s bombs Battlefield Earth and Lucky Numbers.

David Mamet‘s Heist stole off with 40 percent less swag than its opening weekend, but its $15.9 million total through Tuesday represents a personal best for the playwright-turned-film director. Heist, though, won’t stick around too much longer to give yet another crime caper, the star-studded Ocean’s Eleven, too much trouble.

The Wash, which opened Nov. 14 to avoid a direct clash with Harry Potter, failed to clean up with fans of rappers Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. The comedy earned $3.7 million in first five days at 749 theaters. That’s better than Bones, Snoop Dogg‘s ghost story that took in $3.5 million in five days at 847 theaters following a midweek opening. Its total is $4.1 million through Tuesday. At this rate, The Wash should drain away with $8 million.

The pre-Thanksgiving holiday weekend proved kind to one of art house release destined for mainstream acceptance. Amelie almost cracked the Top 10 by earning $1.3 million during its expansion from 115 theaters to 163 theaters. The French sensation now has $2.6 million in her purse, and her future looks bright should she prove a force to be reckoned with come awards time.

Despite a coveted Saturday Night Live hosting gig for star Billy Bob Thornton, Joel and Ethan Coen‘s The Man Who Wasn’t There dropped 12 percent while expanding from 81 theaters to 250 theaters. The black-and-white film noir’s total stands at $3.1 million, indicative that it lacks the accessibility of Fargo and the quirky charm of O Brother, Where Art Thou. It seems that the brothers are floundering in their bid to make audiences notice The Man Who Wasn’t There.