The young wizard's magical performance hindered ''Monsters'' and ''Hal''

By Dave Karger
November 21, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

So, is anyone surprised?

Obliterating all box office records imaginable, ”Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” exploded into theaters this weekend, grossing an absolutely unheard-of $90.3 million. The fervently anticipated fantasy reached new highs for best opening-day gross ($31.3 million); best opening-weekend gross; and best Friday, Saturday, and Sunday earnings.

Obviously, fanaticism for the Potter franchise is matched only by that for any ”Star Wars” film (which may even pale by comparison). The film blanketed the country, premiering on 8,200 screens in 3,672 theaters, and still boasting an incredible $25,463 per-theater average. The previous overall record-holder was 1997’s ”The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” which debuted with $72.1 million in its first three days. More impressively, ”Harry Potter” even outgrossed ”Lost World’s” four-day $90.1 million take, requiring one day fewer to do it. The next benchmark to break? Fastest film to $100 million.

”Star Wars: Episode I–The Phantom Menace” reached that milestone in five days. ”Harry” will try to do it in four. Whether or not that will happen depends on the final weekend numbers. If ”Harry Potter” in fact earned $93.5 million, then a $6.5 million Monday is simple. But if, as rival studios predict, the final weekend tally is more like $89 million, then ”Harry” might not be able to conjure up enough cash.

Meanwhile, Harry’s effect on other current films was staggering. After falling only 29 percent from its first weekend to its second, the Disney/Pixar animated comedy ”Monsters, Inc.” plummeted 50 percent this weekend to $23 million, taking a huge Harry hit. Its total now stands at $156 million. (”Shrek” was up to $148 after its third weekend.) And Gwyneth Paltrow’s comedy ”Shallow Hal,” while not exactly direct ”Potter” competition, dropped 44 percent to $12.7 million, good enough for third place.

John Travolta’s drama ”Domestic Disturbance” remained at No. 4, falling 35 percent to $5.6 million. It’s total now stands at $33.9 million. And the Gene Hackman crime comedy ”Heist” held on to fifth place, dropping 40 percent to $4.7 million. Hackman’s next film, this month’s war thriller ”Behind Enemy Lines,” should best ”Heist’s” $15 million 10-day tally in its first weekend. But even that depends on little Harry Potter’s legs.

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