Research shows who's just wild about 'Harry'

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Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" will be a big movie, but executives behind this highly anticipated film franchise believe that even if its magic doesn't appeal to wanna-be wizards of all ages, it will attract enough from key demographic groups to create a huge opening weekend.

Despite that belief, movie executives said research shows young college-age adults, particularly young adult males, have little interest in the movie, which opens Nov. 16. They cited data from VNU's National Research Group, Los Angeles. NRG data is used by movie studios to adjust and monitor movie TV advertising.

For example, in the category of "definite interest," college students have only scored 18%; this is much lower than the 63% number for moviegoers 35 and older. Overall, the "definite interest" score for the movie is 49%.

Here's another slight concern: While the "definite interest" is 49%; the "awareness" level is 96%. Marketing experts said that means while people are very aware of Harry Potter-through TV and print stories, and TV ads and movie trailers-only half want to see the movie. However, a 96% awareness level is rare, with only a handful of movies ever reaching that.

As a comparison, two weeks before its debut, Walt Disney Co.'s "Monsters, Inc." was grabbing a 73% "awareness" number and a 53% "definite interest." That movie went on to a booming $62.6 million opening weekend.

Warner Bros. is undertaking measures to address teens and young adults in its marketing. "We have created spots that utilize the more action oriented, slightly edgier aspects of the movie. And we're placing it on MTV, sporting events like the NBA and programming like wrestling," said Dawn Taubin, president-domestic marketing, Warner Bros. Pictures. She added the primary audience is expected to be kids ages 7-14 and their parents, 35 and up.

No matter. Even if young adults stay away, industry executives believe other viewers-especially older females-will make this a big movie. "You don't have to get everyone," said Peter Graves, a Los Angeles-based movie marketing consultant. "I think they are going to bring this one in right on the button. They are opening on one of the 10 best weekends of the year with no competition."

U.S. box office results for "Harry Potter" could reach record levels in the first weekend as well as long term, many executives believe. Brian Dreath, chief executive officer of Hollywood Stock Exchange (www.hsx.com), an online game/research company, said HSX Research predicts the movie will do a whopping $79.8 million in box office revenue over the film's first weekend. The movie makes its debut Nov. 16.

The movie's marketing game plan does not call for over-the-top advertising spending. A typical movie ad budget averages $25 million to $30 million, and Warner Bros. seems to be sticking to the upper level of this range, but not over it, for "Potter." Also, its publicity in the consumer press was carefully doled out in order not to overwhelm consumers.

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