Wild about Harry: Fans of the wizard flock to movie opening

Posted: Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kenai Peninsula residents were enchanted by J.K Rowling's popular book-turned-movie, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1," at the Orca Theater in Soldotna on its opening day Friday.

"We didn't bring our wands but we want two for Harry Potter," Cyndi Stewart, 47, of Kasilof told the theater clerk.

Stewart and her mother opted out of the sold-out midnight premier to watch the film at it's first showing Friday afternoon at 3:45 p.m. The latest film is based on the first part of Rowling's seventh and final "Harry Potter" novel. The finale, "Deathly Hallows: Part 2," is due out in July.

In preparation for the debut of the first part of the last book of the series, Stewart said she re-watched all six of the previous Harry Potter films over the past week.

Although Stewart did not read the books, she said she loves and owns all the movies because of the wizards and special effects.

"He's awesome. I'm a big time Harry Potter fan," she said. "Everybody should be a Harry Potter fan."

And Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey is.

He was meeting his family at the theater for Friday afternoon's showing.

"Harry Potter is an excellent series of books and has very much promoted young people reading," he said.

Carey hasn't read the books himself but he said he likes that good wins out over evil in the stories.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in this one," he said.

And so were a lot of other viewers on the Peninsula.

The midnight premiere sold out the 193-seat theater a few days before the showing, said Lora Watson, an Orca Theater manager.

This was an important feat for the independently owned Orca that competes with the chain Regal Kambe in Kenai.

"We are locally owned here so it's important to show the big movie companies we are equipped to handle big movies," she said.

She said the Orca has had some bigger titles in the past like the first "Twilight" movie and "Toy Story 3," but "we just haven't gotten one in awhile."

And if Friday afternoon's steady stream of customers buying advance tickets for Harry Potter showings is any indication, the premier appeared to be a success.

There were children, middle-aged women, students, blue collar workers, young adults, closet fans and families all lined up to see the latest segment of the Warner Brother's empire. The concession stand was busy with movie-goers loading up on buttery popcorn and chocolaty candy to accompany their experiences.

Nationwide, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" made $61.2 million in its first day, positioning it for the best opening weekend ever for the series about the young wizard.

"Deathly Hallows" was No. 5 on the box-office charts for biggest opening day, behind "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" at $72.7 million, "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" at $68.5 million, "The Dark Knight" at $67.2 million and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" at $62 million.

"I'm really excited this movie came out and I can't wait for the second half of it," said Heidi Amend, 21, of Soldotna.

She said she loves the fantasy world of witchcraft and wizardry the books and movies so vividly create with all the different creatures and words for spells.

Tiffany Welch, 30, of Kasilof said she brought her whole family, including her four young children, to see "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

"My sister and I haven't missed one yet," she said.

Welch, who said she loved the books, seemed to be a bigger fan of Harry Potter than her children. And she said she had high expectations for the second part of the last movie.

"I'm hoping it's better than the last two that came out. They left out pretty big chunks," she said.

But she still likes the Harry Potter stories, even if the movies are not always true to the novels.

"I like that it's different than a lot of other books nowadays," she said. "It doesn't have any sex or drugs or anything like that."

Unlike the popular "Twilight" series of movies based on the steamy vampire books by Stephanie Meyer, the "Harry Potter" movies' appeal seem to be less about the hunky actors and more about the fantasy.

"I don't know if it's because they're British they're not really that attractive," said Olivia Tice, 15, of Soldotna.

But, she said, she's watched the characters and actors in the movies so long it's hard not to like them. It's like they're her friends because she grew up with them.

Tice was seeing the movie for the second time Friday afternoon, after having attended the premier earlier that morning. She said true fans of the books would not be disappointed.

"It was really good," she said. The details in the movie match the book "exactly to a point."

"It's closer than the other ones," she added.

Logan Schoessler, 10, said he was really excited to see the "Harry Potter" movie because he read all the books.

Schoessler said he really enjoys the stories because they're not too far-fetched. In the Harry Potter world, the wizards and witches hide from the non-magical people, or "muggles" as they're called in the books, giving them a hint of reality.

When Schoessler and his mother went to buy their tickets, they only needed to buy one. The theater clerk told them someone in front of them had paid for a movie ticket for them to use.


Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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