I vote for Harry Potter. As we’ve seen in the past (Titanic) long running time doesn’t have to kill a movie. It has a very wide audience- everyone from little kidlets to college proffesors dig Harry Potter. Literally everyone I know likes Harry Potter. I can also see a high repeat viewing potential. You see it once with your friends, once with your little sister, once with a date…I know the buzz at my school (admitly filled with film people) is huge. Today we all talked about when we are going to see HP and how awesome we think it will be.
AOTC is going to have a lot to recover from the Phantom Menace fiasco. People have completely lost faith in George Lucus- for a good reason. It seems like the magic of Star Wars is only possible to create in the late 70s, early 80s. I also see trouble with it courting a female fan base.
As for LOTR, the audience is too specialized. Althought the book is very popular, especially among geekier circles, a lot of people flat out didn’t like it. I know I couldn’t get in to it, and I doubt I could get into a loooong movie about it. I can’t seet this being a date movie, a take-your-kids movie, a teen hit movie or anything else. It just doesn’t have the breadthe of appeal that other movies have.