U.K. preem, tie-ins boost AOL TW stock

Harry Potter is enchanting Warner Bros. as the pic wins raves in London and kudos from Wall Street.

Critics haven’t weighed in yet, but British newspapers ran glowing accounts from children and news reporters who attended special screenings over the weekend and the world premiere Sunday. Shares of Warner parent AOL Time Warner jumped in lively trading Monday in New York as one analyst predicted a swell of profits rolling in from the boy wizard.

A separate strategic alliance with Burger King also helped boost the stock, which rose 4.6% to close at $33.49. With media and showbiz shares battered by a slowing economy and a weak ad market, it’s unquestionably a nice time for AOL Time Warner to unveil a hot film and a fat cross-promotional deal.

Thomas Weisel Partners analyst Gordon Hodge said the new Potter pic could pull in $300 million in profits over the next 12 months with the franchise generating as much as a whopping $2 billion total.

The firm also reiterated a buy rating on the stock and a target price of $47.

Certainly, the reaction in Britain for the upcoming “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (which is called “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” in the U.K.) was something of a coup. There’s no doubt the British media, fiercely protective of author J.K. Rowling’s original and wildly popular kids’ books, would have been more than happy to trash the movie — particularly given its American roots.

“Despite its American director and the vast amount of dollars that went into it, this is an extremely British film” and “a remarkably solid piece of work,” conceded an unsigned reviewer in the Independent.

In the Sunday Telegraph, 9-year-old Jessica Hatrick said, “I would have happily watched it for a whole week” — words that are music to the ears of studio execs.

Meanwhile, AOL released details of an extensive marketing and promotion campaign with Burger King linking the fast-food giant and its 12 million daily customers with AOL Time Warner publishing, broadcasting, music film and online properties. Pact is another instance of companies and advertisers looking to buck the current economic downturn with broad agreements that both parties hope will create a bigger bang for the buck.

  • Burger King customers and Sports Illustrated readers can share opinions on the best “Whopper Sports Moment of the Month,” as part of an ongoing Special Advertising Section presented in the magazine, on www.burgerking.com and on www.CNNSI.com.

  • Burger King customers would get access to free music downloads via Warner Music, pre-release streaming of the latest songs and videos, live chats with recording artists and backstage concert passes.

  • Line pics and Warner Music’s new acts and read special features from Time and People magazines. As previously announced, Burger King will also be the fast-food partner for New Line’s upcoming “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”

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