- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Harry Potter fans may need a special incantation to see their literary hero's movie debut Friday if they don't already have tickets.
Whether sold over the phone or online, tickets are moving in record numbers for the film's premiere.
Sales are so brisk, in fact, that sold-out signs could be plastered over movie marquees before the first projector gears up on Friday.
Locally, toy stores are experiencing a heavy demand for all things Potter, and area children who resemble the bespectacled magician could win a prize for their likenesses.
"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," a sprawling, $125 million movie based on author J.K. Rowling's best-selling tome, opens with all the hype pop culture can muster.
The film recounts the adventures of Harry Potter, an orphan attending a prep school for young wizards.
John Singh, spokesman for Fandango, an online movie-ticket site based in Hollywood, says the average "Potter" customer is snapping up four to 10 tickets at a clip. Typically, customers buy, on average, slightly more than two tickets per purchase.
"It's like going to a live event. If you don't have a ticket, you're not going to get in," Mr. Singh says.
Fandango already has sold more tickets for "Potter" than for the entire run of "Planet of the Apes," which pulled in about $178 million domestically this summer.
Tommy McGloin, senior vice president and general manager of AOL Moviefone, says ticket sales jumped from the "tens of thousands" last week to the "hundreds of thousands" as of Monday.
Customers from New York City and Washington are buying the most tickets, via the Culver City, Calif., company. Perhaps the two cities, both hit by terrorists September 11, see Miss Rowling's magical realm as an escape.
The Harry Potter universe includes a copious array of toys, marketing tie-ins, even games to let children and adults imagine themselves as would-be spell-casters.
Wizards of the Coast is in its third printing of its Harry Potter Trading Card Game. The Renton, Wash.-based company is releasing its Quidditch Cup card series Friday to coincide with the film's release. Quidditch Cup is a magical cross between soccer and dodge ball but played astride flying broomsticks.
Brian Mack, owner of Toys Etc. in Potomac, says his store's Harry Potter toys sold sluggishly throughout the year. That's no longer the case, with the hype nipping at consumers' heels.
A Hogwarts Lego castle is the hottest item at a pricey $90, he says, adding that he has sold 120 plastic castles since the first week of October.
Potomac Mills mall in Woodbridge, Va,. is holding a Harry Potter look-alike contest for children ages 6 to 15 at 4 p.m. tomorrow in the Grand Court in Neighborhood 8.
The lad who most resembles the young magician will pull a $500 Potomac Mills gift certificate out of his sleeve. Contest registration begins at 3:30 p.m.
The happy anticipation for the film isn't universal, though. Some religious groups see Miss Rowling's books as an unsavory influence on children.
Terry Horn, pastor at the Dream Center Church in Southwest, excoriates the books for teaching witchcraft to young children.
"To me, this stuff is as bad as peddling dope to a child," Mr. Horn says. "They're exposing their spirit to a dark side of life that God hadn't wanted them to be exposed to."
The film's running time, 21/2 hours, also may test the patience of even the most devoted Potter faithful.
Mr. McGloin, who recently screened the film, disagrees.
"This is a one-of-a-kind movie that stands alone from the typical rules of what the most desirable length is," he says, adding that children's reactions indicated that they wished it were longer, not shorter.
Mr. Mack says a few customers are taking a more measured approach to the film's premiere.
"Some people don't think the movie's a good idea," Mr. Mack says. "They think they [already] know what Harry Potter should look like."

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