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Harry Potter phenomenon soars to movie millions



Published: Sat, November 24, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



With a level of expectation perhaps matched only by the July 8, 2000, midnight sale of the fourth book in J.K. Rowling's remarkable Harry Potter series, the first cinematic Harry Potter hit the world's movie screens on Nov., 16, smashing box office records like the game pieces in wizard chess -- a remarkable feature of the new movie.

Despite the agitation of some ministers and the more over-zealous members of their flocks that youngsters will be consumed by the dark arts, the darkest aspect of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," is how dark it is outside when the 21/2-hour movie reaches its conclusion.

Just as those who said children would never read a 753-page book ("Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire") were wrong, so are those who believed children wouldn't sit still for a 21/2-hour movie. Stand outside the theater as the kids are leaving, and the only complaint you hear is that it wasn't long enough.

What's remarkable about the movie's audience is its breadth: little kids whose reading skills have just reached the Harry Potter stage and their parents, middle school children who are anxiously awaiting the fifth book, and adults and older teens who were ready to enjoy an adventure in cinematic fantasy.

Uninformed critics: The only ones who seem to be disappointed are a number of film critics. But as one Harry Potter fan said, "What do they know?"

Apparently, not much. The week-end gross for the Harry Potter movie was more than $90 million, higher than that for "Star Wars, The Phantom Menace," and "Jurassic Park: Lost World." It's the kind of movie kids anticipate seeing again and again.

Chris Columbus, the movie's director and a Champion native, assures fans that the first sequel will be in theaters the week before Thanksgiving 2002. He'd like to keep the current cast, but is concerned that because the special effects take a long time to produce, the children who hold the roles of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe, 11), and his friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint, 11) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson, 10) could become too old too soon.

At the base of the film's success, is the success of the Rowling books. There are now 55 million copies of the Harry Potter books in print in the United States alone. And according to Pat McBroom, at the Boardman Barnes & amp; Noble, sales have never slowed down.

While children seem to outgrow other kid pop culture icons like the Turtles or the Power Rangers, Harry Potter just grows along with them. In the first book, Harry was 11 and just entering Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Rowling promises seven books in all, which should reach Harry's graduation date.

And the Potter books continue to inspire reading in children who weren't readers before. McBroom calls it a "miracle." We agree.




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