Harry still magical at the box office

The latest big screen installment of JK Rowling's boy wizard is proving to be a smash hit in the UAE and across the world.

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, Rupert Grint (left), Emma Watson (second from left), Matthew Lewis (third from right), Daniel Radcliffe (second from right), Bonnie Wright (right), 2009. ©Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection
Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // Harry Potter has still got it. The boy wizard's sixth Hollywood outing opened to sold-out shows all over the world, earning more than US$104 million (Dh380m) in its first 24 hours - a world record.

In Abu Dhabi, an 11.59pm showing of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at the Marina Mall on Wednesday night virtually sold out as Potter addicts clamoured to be the first to see it. And once, it seems, was not enough for some ardent fans. Cinemas in Abu Dhabi reported that some had already returned to see the film two or three times. Though JK Rowling, the British author of the seven books on which the films are based, originally anticipated a readership of young boys, the fast-paced plots have pulled in readers of all ages, as have their screen adaptations. The lobby of the CineStar in Marina Mall was teeming yesterday afternoon with Harry Potter fans, many of whom were considerably older than the film's young cast.

"I have seen all the movies. I have read all the books," said Lisa Marquez, 33, who works as an office clerk in the capital. "Adults love Harry Potter because there's drama, there's action, but there's also magic. From childhood we've loved magic. "Harry Potter is not reality, it brings us back to the old days. It reminds us of the fantasies we had as children. It's a chance to escape." Bakheet al Mansouri, 20, admitted that although he had not read any of the books, he still considered himself a huge Harry Potter fan.

"I've seen three of the movies and I think this one was the best," he said. "It has it all - magic, action, romance. Magic is haram, but only in real life. Not in the movies. I'll definitely see the next movies." The final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will be adapted into two films, due for release in 2010 and 2011. David Yates, who directed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth instalment, will also direct the final two films.

With the exception of the third movie, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which grossed US$796m worldwide, each instalment has enjoyed bigger box office takings than the last. The first, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - or Philosopher's Stone, depending where you saw it - grossed $975m, the Chamber of Secrets $879m; the fourth, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, earned $896m and the previous film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, made $938m.

Employees at the Grand Al Mariah said they had sold fewer tickets than expected on the opening day, but anticipated higher numbers through the weekend. Adults and children were queuing side-by-side to see the film, despite tepid reviews from the likes of The New York Times - "this adaptation ... comes across as afterthought" - and The Guardian - "faking excitement ... is now impossible". The National's Kevin Maher was more glowing, praising a "new maturity" in the film, which runs to two hours and 33 minutes.

CineStar said most people buying tickets were UAE nationals. Staff at the Grand cinema in Abu Dhabi Mall also said it had been particularly popular with Emirati and other Arab patrons, though they added that fans of all ages and nationalities had purchased tickets. Adon Quinn, manager at CineStar in Marina Mall, said the film was doing good business and staff had noticed the same faces returning again and again.