Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone was this week on course for the biggest opening ever in the UK, racking up record-breaking advance bookings for its release on a record number of sites and prints.

UGC Cinemas reported that, with two weeks still to go before the release, bookings have equalled total advance sales on Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace, the previous record holder. The exhibitor said that bookings for Harry Potter were now 250% higher than Toy Story 2.

The numbers will buoy distributor Warner Bros, which said that the picture will go out on "a record breaking number of sites and prints." According to industry speculation, the film could go out on as many as 1,000 prints, although the previous record for sites was Toy Story 2, which screened at 496 sites and on 768 screens.

Richard Segal, chief executive of Odeon Cinemas, expects advance bookings to intensify even further as the release date of November 16 nears and publicity from the film's November 4 London premiere kicks in. "There is a huge, pent up demand for this movie," he said. "We are on track to beat records."

By Wednesday afternoon, Odeon had taken around 148,000 advance bookings since it started selling tickets on October 22. Ster Century Cinemas is selling around 500 advance tickets per site every 24 hours, while Warner Village Cinemas has sold more than 90,000 tickets since advance tickets went on sale last weekend. UCI has sold more than 70,000 tickets since October 19.

Internet ticketing is also driving advance ticket sales - Warner Village is selling around a third of its tickets online.

"When Titanic was launched less than four years ago there was no online sales facility," said Sarah Kelly, director of sales and marketing at Warner Village Cinemas, which has sold a third of its advance Harry Potter tickets online. "The internet has made a huge difference."