NEW YORK – If hundreds of screaming teens are any indication of success, watch out for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which had a star-studded advance screening yesterday at the Ziegfeld Theatre.
You'd have thought there was a red-carpet sighting of Derek Jeter -- or maybe controversial rapper Eminem, who scored a box-office knockout with his 8 Mile.
8 Mile topped the charts, selling a whopping $54.5 million worth of tickets in its first weekend.
But yesterday, all eyes were on the cast of Harry Potter, which premieres in theaters Friday. More than a thousand fans crowded behind police barricades outside the Hilton New York -- shouting distance from the celebs who pulled up across the street at the Ziegfeld.
Among the Hollywood types, many of whom brought their kids were Joan Allen, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams and Liam Neeson.
With some fans wearing witch hats and capes, the crowd of largely teenage girls rocked the block when Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe, 13, Emma Watson, 12, and Rupert Grint, 14, arrived.
Grint, who plays Harry's buddy Ron Weasley, appeared in a stylish University of Colorado jacket -- an odd turn of haberdashery for a Brit. When asked if he liked the football team or the black-and-gold colors, he diplomatically said "both."
Radcliffe said his starring role as Potter was finally starting to fit him.
"I was definitely more at ease this time," he said. "It was fun to play a Harry who was a bit darker. It's different, a part of his personality that we didn't get to see in the first film."
Meanwhile, studio estimates had Eminem's debut being 2002's fifth-biggest opening-weekend haul, behind Spider-Man, Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, Austin Powers in Goldmember and Signs.
8 Mile deposed last week's box-office champ, The Santa Clause 2, a Tim Allen comedy that slipped to No. 2, with $24.8 million.
The only other new film in wide release -- Brian De Palma's thriller Femme Fatale -- managed only ninth place, with a dismal $3.5 million.