Harry Potter faces his stiffest competition yet at the box office this weekend. But expect the little wizard to cast quite a spell on audiences nonetheless.
The third Potter film, ''Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,'' arrives on the heels of mountains of hype and fan anticipation. The first two Potter pictures grossed $90.3 million and $88.4 million in their respective first weekends, which took place in November. This time, Harry debuts in the summer, but with sturdy competition from ''Shrek 2'' and ''The Day After Tomorrow.'' Still, moviegoers excited by the family-friendly ''Shrek'' will come out in droves for young Master Potter, who should see an opening in the $95 million range.
''Shrek 2,'' meanwhile, will take a small hit from Potter, slipping 40 percent to $43 million and easily passing the $300 million mark this weekend. ''The Day After Tomorrow'' will likely drop 50 percent to about $34 million for third place.
Since Kate Hudson's ''Raising Helen'' is more of an adult draw, its decline may be only around 35 percent to $7 million, while Brad Pitt's ''Troy'' will log one last week in the top five, falling 50 percent to $6 million. Even the mighty Achilles won't survive ''The Chronicles of Riddick'' and ''The Stepford Wives'' next weekend.