Anticipation surrounding the Quidditch World Cup was nothing next to the excitement at Tempe Marketplace’s Harkins Theatres early Thursday morning.
Hundreds of fans — many donning the witch and wizard robes of Gryffindor, Slytherin and Ravenclaw (a few Hufflepuffs were represented) — lined up as early as 6 a.m. in preparation for the midnight release of the final movie in the Harry Potter franchise.
Tempe’s Emily McGill, 16, was 6 when she saw the first film in 2001 (her mom let her skip school). She and her aunt, Leslie McLauglin of Scottsdale, were in line Thursday for the “double dose” showing where fans would see “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I,” followed by the final film, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II.”
“I’ve been here thinking about it so much, I don’t know what to expect,” McGill said.
Her aunt agreed.
“You love the kids, these characters so much. You don’t want to know you’re not going to see them again ever,” McLaughlin said.
The theater expected between 3,500 and 4,000 to see the film at its midnight or 3 a.m. showing, said Bryan Laurel, director of marketing for Harkins. The midnight showings were all sold out and the company added 3 a.m. showings at some theaters.
“It’s going to be a long time before we see something like this again. This series is clearly on par with a ‘Star Wars.’ The fans are very devoted. They’re very invested in the characters. They want to be a part of that universe,” Laurel said.
“That universe” has created seven films so far that have grossed more than $6 billion worldwide. More than half a billion copies of the books (there are seven in the series, with the last book split into two films) have been sold.
For you muggles (nonmagical folks) who are unaware of the Harry Potter realm, here are a few facts:
• The first book appeared in 1997, with the last one published in 2007.
• The series follows the story of orphaned Harry Potter, who — in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” — is an 11-year-old boy who learns he possesses magical powers. He is whisked off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he meets his soon-to-be best friends and companions, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.
• So anticipated were the subsequent books that stores held midnight release parties. The last four in the series set records as the fastest-selling books in history.
Peoria’s Sean McCormick, 23, believes he’s read the first five books “40 times each” and the last two more than a dozen times. He sat Thursday with two siblings and two friends — all wearing robes and carrying the banners for Ravenclaw and Gryffindor (students at Hogwarts are divided into “houses”) — inside Harkins theaters after the doors were opened at 9 a.m.
“My parents were telling us about the midnight releases of ‘Star Wars.’ This is our ‘Star Wars,’ ” McCormick said.
Gilbert’s April Cohee, 22, said she and her friends have grown up with the series and read as the characters went through some of the same childhood angst as they did. Hogwarts was a place she grew up wanting to live at. And if any piece of the “Harry Potter” world could be real, she’d to pick “Hermione’s bag” (the young witch can conjure up books, a deluxe tent, furniture, food and clothing from the “bloody beaded bag” that she’d shrunk down to microscopic proportions).
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was the “first real book” Daniel Simonson, 17, recalls his mom reading to him.
“I did not see the appeal at first,” the Scottsdale resident admits. “But I read the second book and it’s been consistently my favorite throughout the whole series.”
At 6, he went to the midnight showing. He and a group of friends spent the three nights leading up to Thursday watching the previous films (two a night) at Tempe Marketplace as part of Harkins’ “Harry Potter Week” special.
On Thursday morning, he was dressed as Draco Malfoy (Harry’s nemesis at school).
“I’ve got the blond hair,” Simonson said of his costume choice.
Harkins’ Laurel said tickets were still available for weekend showings, but theaters would be full. The company was expecting the film to break records.
“This is just as fun for us as it is for the moviegoers. Franchises like this are few and far between. When something like this comes to an end we want to make it as special as we can for the moviegoers,” he said.
Draco — aka Scottsdale’s Simonson — was just enjoying the moment.
“This has been 11 years of my life and it all ends tonight. It’s going to be sad, but it’s exciting.”
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