‘Potter’ mania spreads across Europe

Pic takes $7 mil in U.K.

LONDON — Europe is under the spell of Harry Potter magic as the fifth installment in the fantasy franchise breaks B.O. records and captivates auds across the continent.

In the U.K., “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” conjured up just over $7 million at 540 sites in previews on Thursday, according to provisional figures released by Nielsen EDI. It is officially released Friday.

“Phoenix” hit screens midweek in most major Euro territories.

In Gaul, the boy wizard magicked up $5.9 million on opening day Wednesday, the second biggest opening day of all time ever in the territory.

In Italy, the $3 million first day take was also the second best opening day ever in the territory. The take reps a best ever Wednesday result. Local bookers are delighted as, in the past, Italy has been largely excluded from day-and-date tentpole summer releases since Italians historically desert movie theaters and hit the beaches in the sunny season.

In Germany, “Phoenix” did not set records but it still lit up the box office on its opening day, Thursday, raking in $3.9 million. Solid opening day follows the $3.6 million it took in Wednesday previews, meaning it stands at $7 million going into the weekend.

In Spain, “Phoenix” took $2.6 million on its first day, Wednesday — a best ever non-Friday first day — and another $1.4 million on Thursday, moving the running cume to $4 million.

Latest “Potter” is also clicking in smaller Euro territories. According to WB, it managed the biggest industry opening day in Holland and Belgium on Wednesday.

Back in Blighty, “Phoenix” was always likely to do gangbusters biz on hometurf due to the huge popularity of the books and films. The pic from Brit director David Yates got a late boost from critics, who were largely pro to mixed.

Financial Times reviewer Nigel Andrews praised the “strong plot with a satirical edge.” “Daniel Radcliffe has brought a raw nerved intensity to the role that was absent before,” praised Wendy Ide in the Times.

“Phoenix” topliner Radcliffe’s profile in the U.K. has been boosted by his recent self-effacing appearance in Ricky Gervais’ “Extras” and daring nude turn on the stage in “Equus.”

Frenzied excitement over the July 21 release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” J.K. Rowling’s seventh and supposedly last tome in the series, has helped build Potter buzz to boiling point.

Rumors abound in the Brit press that the titular character is “killed off” at the conclusion of “Hallows,” but Rowling has remained tight-lipped other than to say she felt a “sense of bereavement” at ending Potter’s adventures.

Waterstone’s booksellers has launched a well-publicized “Save Harry” petition, which reads “We, the undersigned, petition J.K. Rowling to write more new adventures for Harry Potter and friends no matter what happens at the end of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.’ ”

The elusive Rowling will only say “never say never” to growing calls from diehard fans for another Potter book.

Prior to the releases of “Phoenix,” the Potter film franchise had banked a whammo $3.5 billion. And much of that cash has come at international wickets — 68% or $2.4 billion.

Additional reporting by Ed Meza (Germany), Nick Vivarelli (Italy), David Hayhurst (Italy) and Emilio Mayorga (Spain) .

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