July 13, 2011

Harry Potter fans begin movie marathon

Sadie Williams is 10 years old — meaning she wasn't born when the first Harry Potter book debuted in the U.S. in 1998.

Sadie Williams is 10 years old — meaning she wasn't born when the first Harry Potter book debuted in the U.S. in 1998.

She was a baby when the first movie came out in 2001.

And yet, like so many others, she has fallen in love with the Harry Potter saga, which ends at midnight with the release of the eighth and final movie, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2."

The series has sold 450 million books and close to a billion movie tickets.

Author J.K. Rowling emphasizes loyalty and the battle between right and wrong throughout the series, making it easy to see why the series still appeals to people, said Joe Williams, Sadie's dad.

"They're classic stories — good guys, bad guys," he said. "Rowling's got a great imagination."

On Wednesday, members of the Williams family joined about 350 people who were attending sold-out Harry Potter movie marathons at the east and west Warren Theatre locations. The marathon split the movies into two days, with four shows Wednesday and three today leading up to the midnight premiere of the final film.

Sadie isn't worried about getting bored during the eight movies, which have a run time of 19 1/2 hours if started right after each other. The Warren has scheduled breaks during the day.

"It's not long if you like them," she said.

As the doors opened at the east location Wednesday, a line of fans waiting outside streamed into the theater with shouts of joy.

Some moviegoers, like Ashlea Bass, created costumes for the event. Bass dressed as Pansy Parkinson, one of Harry's fellow students at Hogwarts. She wore a black wig and a cloak and tie with the house colors for Slytherin incorporated into them.

Bass has another costume planned for today.

"I did theater in high school so this is normal," she said.

The Potter marathon is a first for the Warren, but the east Warren Theatre hosted a similar "Lord of the Rings" marathon several years ago.

The midnight premiere will play at the east location in 10 theaters, including the grand auditorium, which seats 500. At the west Warren, the movie will show in six theaters, including the IMAX theater, which seats about 600.

Tickets at the east, west and Old Town Warren locations are sold out, but other area theaters still have seats for the premiere.

Series' impact

The Harry Potter series — which details seven years in the life of the orphaned wizard who acquires the skills and courage to avenge his parents' deaths — has left its impact.

It boosted adolescent reading habits and erased the line between young-adult and adult fiction. The series broke publishing and box office records and is the highest grossing franchise in movie history.

"Usually, the law of diminishing returns applies to movie franchises," says Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst at, who notes that from the first "Harry" film, in 2001, to the seventh, in 2010, box office has been consistently strong.

"No other series has had a trajectory like this."

The series made millionaires of its young stars. Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), 21, pocketed $20 million for each of the last two "Harry" films, while Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), 21, and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), 22, earned $15 million apiece.

"I don't think it's possible to overstate the effects of 'Harry Potter' on reading and on publishing," says Diane Roback, children's book editor at Publishers Weekly. "In terms of number of books sold, anticipation for new volumes in the series, getting children to read, getting adults to read books for children, and creating a cultural phenomenon, it is unmatched."

Drawing readers

Matt Lester, 27, of Wichita, bought a full set of the books because he enjoyed watching the movies so much.

Danny Huff, 19, got hooked on the books when he started listening to them as audio tapes in first grade.

"I hate to read," he said. "It's the only book I can actually stand to pick up and read."

He guessed he has read the first book in the series 20 times and others in the series multiple times.

Both men stood in line for the marathon Wednesday morning. Huff planned to spend Wednesday night sleeping in a tent at the east Warren.

Standing in the heat, Huff remembered camping out for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" in November when it was so cold someone had to replace him in line for a while so he could thaw.

Huff joked that he planned to bribe his mother to bring him food. He said he might have a few meals at the diner in the Warren, too. But the time spent is worth it, he said.

"It's the end of an era," Huff said.

The Williams family also agreed that spending two days watching the movies on the big screen was worth it. Sadie and her younger brother hadn't seen several of the movies in a theater.

"For me, it's the last chance to see them," Joe Williams said.

Sadie plans to sleep till noon after the midnight premiere, which will be her first one.

"I'll be excited and tired," she said.

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