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Harry Potter hits screen in riot-bruised Xinjiang (07/15/09)


by Xinhua writers Ji Shaoting, Huang Yan & Fang Ning   

URUMQI, July 15 (Xinhua) - "The Half-blood Prince", the sixth installment in the Harry Potter series, hit screen in the riot-torn city of Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, at noon Wednesday, the same day of the movie's global premiere.

The movie premiered in other Chinese cities at midnight Tuesday. But cinema managers in Urumqi said they showed the movie at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday because of safety concerns.

Big posters of Harry Potter and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" decorated the front of the People's Cinema, a block away from the People's Square, center of the bloody violence on July 5 that left at least 184 people dead.

When the viewers entered the cinema to enjoy the spell cast by Potter and his fellow wizards Wednesday noon, the visible reminder of the violence on the street was a huge scroll recently hung on the outside wall of the cinema, which reads "Against Separation, Safeguarding Unity."

"Harry is luckier than the Ice Age animals," said Li Juan, manager of People's Cinema, "the Dreamwork's "Ice Age III", scheduled to arrived on July 8, was delayed for two or three days in Urumqi's cinemas. And its midnight show was also canceled because of the riots."

Only 63 tickets were sold for the Harry Potter premiere in the cinema's screening room, which has 760 seats.

"We had expected to sell 200 to 300 tickets," said the manager.

"The market is still frozen. I wish the wizard really had some magic," said Li, whose cinema was closed on the night of July 5 and reopened on July 8 afternoon with a box office of some 500 yuan (about 73 U.S. dollars).

Most audience were pupils accompanied by adults, and high school and university students who are on summer holiday.

"I was still worried about the security, but my daughter begged me to take her to watch the film," said Guli Shawuguli, a Kazak ethnic mother of an 11-year-old girl.

Zheng Tong, general manager of Urumqi Os Car Cinema, said he placed hope on Harry Potter.

"He (Harry Potter) finally arrives. I've been waiting for him for a long time," he said.

The cinema was closed on July 5 and re-opened on July 10. Only 173 tickets were sold that day, which could not be understood as good for a cinema with nearly 1,600 seats, he said.

All the seven cinemas in Urumqi re-opened after the riots except the People's Theatre in South Gate, one of the severely attacked places on July 5.

Urumqi with 3.5 million residents has eight major cinemas.

Elsewhere in China, the movie has been long expected as a box-office stimulus.

The Wanda International Cinema Co. Ltd in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, said all of its three cinemas in the city added screen shows of the movie on Wednesday, since tickets were sold out before the shows.

"I believe the box office of Harry Potter would surpass that of Transformers, which has broken the box-office record of 4 billion yuan set by Titanic 11 years ago in its three-week show in China," said Jiang Dongjie, manager of the company.

(Xinhua correspondent Liu Jingyang in Harbin also contributed to this story.)



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