‘Harry’ works magic in U.K.

Brit sneak peek conjures boffo B.O.

A boy wizard transfixed the Brits, but B.O. magicians were in short supply in most other markets last week, although “The Others” spooked lots of Aussies and “Scary Movie 2’s” ribald humor tickled German funnybones.

Sneaked in the U.K. ahead of its Nov. 16 bow, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (as it’s known in most overseas territories) conjured up $9.6 million Nov. 10-11 from 1,137 prints at 491 theaters.

That shattered the market’s all-time previews record, beating “Star Wars: Episode One — The Phantom Menace,” which earned $3.1 million in 1999. Saturday’s bounty of $5.1 million ranked as the highest single-day gross in the U.K., outrunning “Toy Story 2’s” second Saturday after its platform launch; and Sunday’s $4.5 million was the biggest Sunday ever.

“Potter” looks sure to fly past “Phantom Menace’s” opening weekend record of $13.5 million, including previews: the only question is by how much. One booker was bullishly predicting a weekend haul of around $14.6 million for the junior wizard.

Hyped by Australia’s own Nicole Kidman, “The Others” clicked Down Under, and while it didn’t break any records, experience elsewhere shows it should have sturdy legs. So it proved for the chiller in its soph sessions in the U.K. and Mexico; its cume topped $50 million from just 14 markets.

Comic relief

Miramax/Dimension’s “Scary Movie 2” was a riot in Germany, where one exhib observed, “Viewers wanted to laugh. The first movie was very successful and people wanted more of the same over-the-top comedy.” The original “Scary” grossed $17 million in Germany.

The horror spoof had a reasonable hold in a quiet session in Spain, and its total reached $56 million from 41 territories. Serious horror fans turned out for “Jeepers Creepers” in Spain, where word of mouth is fueling “Mad Love,” the country’s foreign-lingo Oscar entry.

After stumbling in Japan and Korea, rogue cop saga “Training Day” saw respectable bows in France and Belgium but was ho-hum in Spain and Sweden.

“Cats & Dogs” became the 17th title to cross $100 million this year, boosted by Italy’s fair second lap and Japan’s fourth. With $96.2 million in the till late last week, “American Pie 2” is set to become No. 18, spurred by Taiwan’s lusty $321,000 in five days on 48 and handy holdover biz in Italy, France and the U.K.

“Bridget Jones’s Diary” was due to reach the $200 million pinnacle over the weekend, still earning decent coin in France and Italy, as its foreign adventure winds down.

Local champ

In its 17th lap in Japan, Toho’s toon “Spirited Away” soared past “Titanic” to claim the mantle of the territory’s all-time B.O. champ in local currency, making 26.2 billion yen ($218.4 million).

Disney’s kidpic “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” continued its European voyage with buoyant bows in Sweden (25% better than “Shrek’s” entry) and Denmark, where it was on par with “Dinosaur.” “Atlantis’ ” cume cruised to $34.2 million.

“A Knight’s Tale” had a typically middling preem in Italy, retitled “The Destiny of a Knight,” but it was No. 1 in Thailand. The Heath Ledger starrer’s cume is $52 million, with France the only major market remaining. Mark Italy as another casualty for “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin,” which took such a bruising from Italo critics that director John Madden issued an apology for having inadvertently portrayed the Italian characters in a stereotypical way.

Reese Witherspoon starrer “Legally Blonde” saw fair debuts in Mexico, Holland and Brazil, but it tanked in Argentina.

In its first major offshore markets, costumer “The Musketeer,” toplining Catherine Deneuve and Mena Suvari, didn’t translate in Japan (prudently restricted to 83 screens by local distrib Nippon Herald) or in France. Gallic critics were hostile, with one daily calling it “the worst adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ novel.”

Highbrow ‘Man’

A respectable performer in the U.K., “The Man Who Wasn’t There” from the Cohen brothers was nearly invisible in Germany, while in France, it resonated in Paris but was less appealing in the provinces.

“This is a city/university film,” said one exec at UGC, predicting the pic won’t achieve anything like the success of the Coen’s “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

“The market has not been exceptionally dynamic for several weeks now,” the exhib said. “There are some films that should have done better, but I think in general the public in France is getting more selective. It’s been a great year here, especially for French films, and the public has more confidence in the films, but it also makes them more wary.”

(David Rooney in Rome, Ed Meza in Berlin, Lee Simkins in London, Tad Osaki in Tokyo and Liza Klaussmann in Paris contributed to this report.)