Harry Potter Mesmerizes Box Office

Wizards have displaced lizards for best box-office debut. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone grossed $93.5 million in its first weekend, shattering the record held by the dinosaur sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

Harry Potter broke other major box-office records, posting the three top single-day hauls ever and positioning itself to become the fastest movie to hit $100 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. It has a shot at crossing that mark in its fourth day on Monday, compared with five days for Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.

Lost World took in $72.1 million in its first three days over Memorial Day weekend in 1997. If box-office estimates hold when final numbers are reported Monday, Harry Potter will have surpassed the $90.1 million Lost World grossed in its first four days.

On Friday, Harry Potter broke the record for best single-day take with $31.6 million, topping the previous best of $28.5 million for The Phantom Menace in its opening day in 1999.

On Saturday, Harry Potter took in $32.9 million, breaking the single-day record again. Distributor Warner Bros. estimated the movie's Sunday ticket sales at $29 million, which would give the film the three all-time best one-day grosses.

"We obviously knew going in we were going to have a great opening," said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. head of distribution. "Nobody anticipated such a staggering number that would shatter every industry record."

Based on the first book of British author J.K. Rowling's adventure series about a school for wizards and witches, Harry Potter was directed by Chris Columbus and stars Daniel Radcliffe in the title role.

Columbus and company will have little time to bask in the film's success. Production on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets begins Monday in London, with Warner planning to have it in theaters the weekend before Thanksgiving next year. The studio hopes to do the same with the third Harry Potter movie in 2003.

Monsters, Inc., the No. 1 film for the last two weekends, fell to second place with $23 million. Disney's decision to put the animated tale into theaters two weeks before Harry Potter has paid off: Monsters, Inc. set a record for best debut for an animated movie and has taken in $156.7 million in just 17 days.

Overall box-office revenues rose. The top 12 movies grossed $157.1 million, up 6.6 percent from the same weekend a year ago, when four movies opened in wide release, including the blockbuster Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Other studios generally stayed out of the way of Harry Potter, with only a handful of new films opening, mostly in limited release. The biggest of those was The Wash, a car-wash comedy featuring Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, which grossed $3 million in 749 theaters.

Novocaine, a black comedy starring Steve Martin as a dentist framed for murder, debuted in 105 theaters and took in $425,000.

The two-and-a-half-hour running time of Harry Potter limits the number of screenings theaters can squeeze in each day, but Warner compensated by debuting the film in a record 3,672 theaters, with many cinemas playing it on several screens. It is showing on about 8,200 screens, nearly one-fourth of the nation's total.

Harry Potter averaged an enormous $25,467 a theater. By comparison, Monsters, Inc. averaged $19,332 in 3,237 theaters in its debut two weekends ago.

"I think in the wake of Sept. 11, people are looking for entertainment close to home," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the box office. "Harry Potter plays right into that. It's a fantasy world people can get out of the house and enjoy for a few hours, but stay relatively close to home."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures are to be released Monday.

1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, $93.5 million.

2. Monsters, Inc., $23 million.

3. Shallow Hal, $12.7 million.

4. Domestic Disturbance, $5.6 million.

5. Heist, $4.7 million.

6. The One, $4.2 million.

7. K-PAX, $3.3 million.

8. The Wash, $3 million.

9. Life As a House, $2.7 million.

10. 13 Ghosts, $2.2 million.