Popcorn frenzy as Pottermania takes hold at the box office

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For one frenetic, popcorn-strewn weekend, Britain returned to the pre-television and video age as families went en masse to the cinema.

In Britain, the first Harry Potter film made £16 million ($22.9 million) over its opening weekend. The previous record-holder, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, took £9.5 million ($13.6 million) on its debut weekend in 1999.

In the US, the boy wizard took £68 million pounds ($97.3 million), beating the previous record by Steven Spielberg's The Lost World: Jurassic Park, with £51 million ($71.4 million) in 1997.

"It's positioned to break every other industry record," said Dan Fellman, the president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros.

In Britain, as multiplex cinemas showed the film on several screens with screenings every hour, the money rolled in, and cleaners gulped at the sight of ankle-deep popcorn. Several families will have squeezed past Rhys Riley, aged nine, from Bristol, who watched the film four times in a row, a bum-numbing 10 hours. "I saved up my pocket money for two months and didn't buy any sweets so I could buy the tickets – and it was worth every penny," he said. "I usually can't sit still for long, but in 10 hours I never got bored once."

Meanwhile, the British Tourist Authority, still recovering from the combined effects of the foot-and-mouth epidemic and the terrorist attacks in the US, has seized on Pottermania as a new way of attracting visitors.

Today, it is launching a campaign based around the movie, offering tourists and homegrown enthusiasts a guide to the locations used in the film. The cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral, known as an architectural masterpiece, will now be promoted as the backdrop for Hogwarts School. Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, advertised less than snappily as the second-largest inhabited castle in England, can now be described far more magically – as the location for the film's Quidditch match.