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Film of Harry Potter Hit Shanghai

Harry Potter, the young hero of J.K. Rowling's massively successful children's books, is proving to be a box-office wizard around the world, and Shanghai is definitely no exception.

Local cinemas, which began screening "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" late last month, say ticket sales have been so good the movie may surpass last summer's smash hit "Pearl Harbor" in total box-office take.

Although the movie has been widely available on pirated VCDs and DVDs since December, Shanghai Film Art Center said opening night was sold out a week in advance and it took in 600,000 yuan.

Other cinemas around the city are also reporting booming sales. Studio City Cinema reported ticket sales worth 800,000 yuan (US$96,385) for the film's opening week.

The numbers are particularly impressive considering that cinema tickets sell for between 40 and 60 yuan, while DVDs can be bought for around 10 yuan.

"We expected 'Harry mania'," said Bao Yifan, executive at Shanghai Paradise Film & TV Group Co., one of the two local distributors for imported films. "The key factor in the film's success here is the speed at which it came out - just two months after the U.S. release."

The success is similar to that of "Titanic," which was released in China soon after its U.S. release. The movie went on to set box-office records in China, taking in 36 million yuan in Shanghai alone.

"'Harry Potter' attracts not only kids but adults as well," said Chen Qingyi, director of marketing at Shanghai Film Art Center. "Everyone seems to be caught by the fantastic world of wizardry and naivete created by J.K. Rowling in her best-selling books."

The books have been translated into 46 languages, including Chinese, and the phenomenon has now moved onto the big screen. By the summer of 2000, Rowling had reportedly earned US$400 million in sales of 30 million copies of her first three novels worldwide.

The movie took in US$312.9 million during its first 12 weeks of release in the United States and Canada.

"We plan to screen the film into March, which is an extraordinary run for a foreign film," Chen said. But, he added, it is too early to say if the film will do as well as "Titanic" or "Pearl Harbor," which earned 14 million yuan from ticket sales in Shanghai alone last year.

But the Chinese New Year holiday season should help ticket sales, as kids are out of school for the winter vacation.

Local children are also spending money on other Harry Potter goods such as toys. The Isetan toy counter in Westgate Mall introduced eight types of Harry Potter toy bricks, priced as high as 988 yuan, in early December. Sales of Harry Potter toys accounted for a third of the counter's daily revenue over Christmas.

"I like Harry Potter - he's cute. It's cool to see him flying on a broom," said Gu Changwei, a 12-year-old primary school student.

"How I wish I could be Harry Potter and able to use all his wizardry," said the local boy.

(Eastday.com February 07, 2002)

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