Harry Potter Hopes To Cast A Spell On More Moviegoers, In Projection Booth

Do 'Captivity,' last week's champ 'Transformers' stand a chance against 'Order of the Phoenix'?

“Crucio!”

Harry Potter may not be sufficiently hateful enough to pull off a successful Cruciatus Curse — a spell that inflicts its victim with unimaginable and intolerable pain — against Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange in “Order of the Phoenix,” but rival flicks will no doubt feel the sting this weekend when the fifth installment of the blockbuster series opens in 4,285 theaters, the second-largest opening in film history.

“Avada Kedavra!”

The first four films in the series all opened well north of $80 million, peaking with a $102.7 million bow for “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” in 2005. Worldwide, they are all among the top 20 most successful films of all time.

“Order” certainly has the ability to match or exceed those lofty standards (see ” ’Harry Potter’ Cast, Crew Dish On ’Phoenix,’ Fans And Waiting To See How It Ends” ), riding a darker, more adult theme — with He Who Shall Not Be Named returning to full strength, gathering his old followers and searching for a way to get his slimy hands on a hidden prophecy. The movie also boasts unparalleled awareness and excitement because of the near-simultaneous release of both the movie and J.K. Rowling’s seventh — and final — book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” (see ” ’Harry Potter’ Book Covers Provide Clues, Confusion About Showdown With Voldemort” ). The Wednesday midnight premiere screenings of “Order of the Phoenix” drummed up an estimated $12 million alone.

It’s a combination that might as well be a killing curse for other flicks. Could a flash of green light be the last thing Optimus Prime, Remy the rat and John McClane see before all goes black?

“Imperio!”

Or could “Transformers” duplicate its success from last weekend, sending a chill down Warner Bros. execs’ spines like a visit from a couple Dementors (see ” ’Transformers’ Conquers Box Office With Record-Busting First Week” )? It’s not like we’re all controlled by the Imperious Curse, a spell that grants its caster total control over his target.

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities,” Dumbledore tells Harry in “Chamber of Secrets,” and it’s a quote we could well apply to American audiences should “Transformers” or the other new film this weekend, “Captivity,” perform bigger than expected (see “Elisha Cuthbert Says People Will ’Get A Kick Out Of’ Abduction Flick” ). Starring Elisha Cuthbert as a model abducted by a torturous madman, “Captivity” has been beset for months by negative publicity surrounding a distasteful advertising campaign. It opens in 1,500 theaters.

So will America choose to once again embrace hard-R torture? Or will Harry Potter run wild over all other films like a rampaging Hippogriff?

More importantly, will we be sentenced to a lifetime in Azkaban for using not one, but all three Unforgivable Curses? We asked our experts to weigh in.

These, then, are our choices.

The Predictions: She may be against dancing on the “Corny Collins Show,” but even a Muggle like Prudy Pingleton has a soft spot for the Chosen One, as “Hairspray” and “The West Wing” actress Allison Janney predicted the boy wizard would be tops at the weekend box office. But will our other experts agree with her projection of only $40 million? Find out below.

What’s the #1 flick? How much will it rake in?

Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” ($120 million)
“Remember that little art film of Michael Bay’s? ’Transformers’ I think it was called? That’s how big an opening I’m expecting from Mr. Harry Potter. Shortest running time of all the Potters plus one of the widest releases in history. Get the Wite-Out ready for the history books. We’re looking at $120 million, folks. That’s a lot of Muggles.”

Larry Carroll, MTV News writer: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” ($115 million)
“Expecto Big Box-Office-o! If there’s one weapon in Hollywood that can overcome giant outer-space robots, it’s Harry’s magic wand. But I don’t know if I’m going to expect big-time record-breaking here. The last ’Potter’ potboiler opened at $103 million, and I’d expect this one to be slightly bigger. Let’s call it 115 — which is the same temperature that most teenage girls had after Daniel Radcliffe recently revealed those leather-clad photos” (see ” ’Harry Potter’ Star Daniel Radcliffe Gets Leather-y In Racy Photo Spread” ).

Allison Janney, “Hairspray” actress: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” ($40 million)
“I’m sure Harry Potter will kick it out of the box. It’s so popular. I mean, that’s all I can say. It just seems like people really like that movie and that whole series. There seems to be a whole phenomenon around that movie.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” “Transformers” and “Captivity.”

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