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Potent ‘Potter’ will duel the scissors of Oz

Pic tracking 26% ahead of first four days of 'Chamber'

The Hogwarts wizards are mesmerizing auds in the U.K. and France — but they’ve hit a censorship glitch Down Under.

“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” has minted a phenomenal $25.2 million in its first four days on 535 locations in Blighty, according to Warners’ estimates.

In local currency overseas, the Alfonso Cuaron-directed fantasy is tracking 26% ahead of the first four days of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

Bowing Wednesday in France, Warner pic sold an estimated 546,000 tickets, ringing up $3.9 million. That eclipsed first-day admissions of 343,000 for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and 397,000 for “Chamber of Secret” (excluding their previews).

In Australia, WB’s distrib Roadshow is appealing the M15+ rating, which means the pic is not recommended for anyone under 15. The appeal will be heard Tuesday, two days before its nationwide debut.

“Azkaban” opened Thursday in the southern state of Tasmania, where schools are on vacation.

Roadshow will argue the M15+ is the toughest classification imposed anywhere in the world and say it should be rated Parental Guidance, like the earlier editions.

The Office of Film and Literature Classification attributed the higher classification to several scenes including depictions of a character who transforms into a werewolf and fights with a black dog, and later stalks Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Hermione (Emma Watson).

The OFLC board (which voted 5-3 in favor) also cited a character who turns into a giant spider and the “dementors” who suck the life essence out of humans.

Exhibs in the U.K. were thrilled with the B.O. after the pic became the first to gross more than £5 million ($9.2 million) in a single day in its May 31 preem, a public holiday (Daily Variety, June 2).

“I can’t see this movie overtaking the £66 million that the first one did,” said one London programmer, “but I reckon it will get very near and possibly pass the £54 million done by ‘Potter 2.’ ”

In Italy, where the Hogwarts saga opens today, exhibs were forecasting Christmas-type business, alluding to the territory’s most lucrative period of the year.

Distrib is releasing “Azkaban” on some 7,500 prints in 23 markets over the weekend and in a further 21 territories next weekend.

(Archie Thomas in London and Sheri Jennings in Rome contributed to this report).

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