A quick dip cools hopes for a record

But 'Potter' may place among all-time B.O. champs

After a sizeable box office slip this weekend, it appears even a boy wizard has his limitations. The bigger question remains: How high can “Harry” fly?

Domestically, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” appears on track to approach $400 million by the end of its run. Such a perf would rank it far below 1997 record-holder Titanic ($600.8 million), as well as 1977’s “Star Wars” ($461 million) and its 1999 prequel “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” ($431.1 million).

Warners and others sources believe there’s a substantial chance “Harry” will outdistance the No. 4 all-time grosser, “E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial” ($399.8 million). And a good second wind through the holiday season could see “Harry” soar past all but “Titanic.”

Several holiday openers that could nip at potential “Harry” auds have yet to bow, with “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” from Warners’ corporate kin New Line chief among them. On the other hand, it’s considered a plus that Christmas and New Year’s fall on Tuesdays this season, stretching preceding B.O. frames into effective five-day seshes that encourage more moviegoing.

“It’s always like striking pay dirt when Christmas falls on a Tuesday,” Warners exec veep distrib Jeff Goldstein said.

Internationally, “Harry” is an early high flyer. But pic still hasn’t bowed in several notable territories, so the ultimate foreign cume for the family fantasy remains tougher to predict.

Execs say only that they are confident “Harry” at least will match its domestic B.O. in foreign grosses, but outside sources say that estimate is far too conservative. It’s considered a lock pic will see far more foreign B.O. than even its boffo domestic totals.

“Titanic” is also the reining champ in worldwide B.O., after amassing a mind-bending $1.8 billion thanks to foreign grosses outpacing domestic two-to-one. “Phantom Menace” turned in the second-biggest worldwide perf at $925.6 million, a number “Harry” could match if it reaches the upper end of domestic and foreign forecasts.

“I think it’s conceivable ‘Harry Potter’ could do $1 billion worldwide with a real marketing push,” said David Davis, senior veep and B.O. analyst for investment firm Houlihan, Lokey, Howard & Zukin in Los Angeles.

But Davis added it’s unlikely Warners will flog “Harry” much into 2002 theatrically.

Consider that “Titanic” was helped by a lot of marketing related to its successful Oscar campaign, whereas “Harry” isn’t the kind of picture that grabs lots of statuettes.

Also, Warners won’t want to stretch pic’s theatrical run so far as to jeopardize an important summer bow for “Harry” in homevid.

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