What's a bestseller

Harry Potter has performed a new vanishing act.

For the first time in nearly a decade, the New York Times bestseller lists will be without a title featuring J.K. Rowling's hugely popular young wizard. And the character is finally disappearing from the Canadian rankings as well.

This Sunday's New York Times will be Potter-less for the first time since Dec. 27, 1998, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (as series opener Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was titled in the U.S.) made its debut on the paper's bestseller list. The streak has ended with the dropping of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, published last July.

Over the years, the Potter books became such prominent mainstays on the New York Times bestseller lists that the paper kept creating new categories to accommodate the phenomenon, first introducing a children's list in 2000 and then, four years later, breaking the children's list into sub-categories, including a separate ranking of series books.

"Most publishers and booksellers welcomed the change, because the Potter phenomenon was keeping new titles off the fiction list," wrote senior editor Dwight Garner on the paper's book blog. "Some observers, though, felt Rowling was unfairly evicted – after all, they pointed out, adults read her books."

In Canada, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows last made it onto Quill & Quire's monthly children's list in March.

"It's relative," said Quill & Quire editor Derek Weiler. "If Harry Potter is petering out as a reading phenomenon, it's petering out from being the biggest reading phenomenon of the last 10 years. I'm sure the books are still selling in healthy numbers."

Also, a U.S. study based on the reading habits of three million children reported yesterday that established favourites by Dr. Seuss, E.B. White and Judy Blume ranked higher with surveyed readers than the Potter books, although several Potter titles made it into the top 20 preferred books. About 375 million Potter books have been sold.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Growth in cinema attendances on the back of releases such as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix prompted Cineworld to forecast 2007 earnings at the top end of expectations, adding that it had increased its UK market share.

Cineworld, which listed in May last year, said 2008 had started strongly and that the outlook was promising, with upcoming film franchises including Batman, Harry Potter, Star Trek, James Bond and Indiana Jones.

Shares in Cineworld tumbled last month after it revealed ITV's Carlton Screen Advertising wanted to renegotiate its screen-advertising sales contract, worth about £20m a year.

Yesterday's trading update, in which Cineworld said talks with CSA continued, saw the shares recover 23¼p, or nearly 22 per cent, to 130p. The group floated at 170p and peaked in the summer at 220p.

Box office takings at UK cinemas were up 6.9 per cent, according to Nielsen EDI, and Cineworld admissions at continuing sites rose 4.8 per cent.

Its market share rose from 23.5 per cent to 23.7 per cent, behind Odeon, the market leader. Consensus earnings forecast for 2007 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation is £51m.

Cineworld opened a new outlet in Oxfordshire last year, bringing its estate to 73 and 758 screens. It plans to add two more in 2008 - in High Wycombe and Haverhill - and a further two are scheduled to open next year.

After signing a deal with Read-D to introduce digital technology to some of its screens, Cineworld screened Beowulf in 3-D in November and hoped to release other films in this format, claiming its impact would compare with the move from black and white to colour. Steve Wiener, chief executive, said: "The deal will revolutionise the cinema experience for moviegoers."

Cazenove, Cineworld's broker, said in a note that with ticket prices up about 3 per cent, it estimated full-year box office growth at 8 per cent, reflecting a very weak market over December. However, it estimated box office takings for the first two weeks of the financial year up 30 per cent on the same period last year.
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