November 17, 2001
Eleven-year-olds Tara Conlin and Missy Krous were the first muggles in line for the 7 o’clock showing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at the Chief Plaza Theater Friday night.
The same age as the hero in the blockbuster movie, these muggles, the word in the Harry Potter world to describe non-wizards, had been waiting since 5:30 p.m. to watch the highly anticipated film version of J.K Rowling’s best-selling novel.
The girls were one of the many children and adults alike who had read the book before watching the two-and-a-half hour movie. They already knew about the magical world of the young wizard and his two best friends, Hermione and Ron, who attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
For the five 12-year-olds sitting behind the first two muggles in line, Harry Potter lingo rolled off their tongues as the talked about the books’ every-flavor jelly beans that included ear wax and vomit and Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, the magical train platform where Harry boards for school.
They also talked about the more than magical lessons they had learned from reading a book about an orphaned boy who was raised by an uncaring aunt and uncle and who faces the same challenges as many school-aged children.
“(Harry) was brought up in not the best kind of house, or best community, but knows he can do better than that and be better than that,” said Jennifer Bloc, 12.
The girls were at the head of a line that snaked out the doors of the Chief Plaza by 6:30 p.m. As they sat behind a red velvet rope, viewers of the 3:45 p.m. showing trickled out giving praise of a movie they said stayed true to the book but lacked the detail of the magical world spun by Rowling.
Since the movie opened at 12:30 Friday afternoon, Chief Plaza Manager Mark Green said every show had been sold out.
The only theater in town to show Harry Potter, the Chief Plaza had the movie playing four times daily in one 131-seat theater over the weekend. For the 7 p.m. Saturday showing, tickets sold out almost five hours before it started.
Green said moviegoers have come out grinning ear to ear and he thinks Harry Potter has the blockbuster potential of movies such as “Titanic,” which holds the theater record for the longest-running movie with 17 weeks.
“Because of word of mouth, movies like the ‘Titanic’ and ‘Harry Potter’ have good legs. It means they can run for a long time,” he said.
The release of the movie is only the latest event in the media frenzy over the popularity of the four Harry Potter books. For Strawberry Park librarian Sherry Holland, keeping a Harry Potter book on the shelves is a hard thing to do.
“There’s not one Harry Potter book left. They’re all trying to read it before going to the movie,” Holland said.
Holland randomly selected 10 students from her class that had read more than a thousand minutes this year to take to the movie Saturday afternoon. A fan of Rowling’s books, Holland said the movie would give her students a chance to compare their image of the fantasy world of Hogwarts to what the movie created.
“I think (the movie) will enhance it for the kids. If they reread the book, it will create images in their head that may have been different before,” she said.
With tousled brown hair and circular rimmed glasses, Strawberry Park third-grader Jeff Sperry is a Harry Potter look-a-like minus the lighting-shape scar on Harry’s forehead.
Sperry has read all four of the Harry Potter books and said he was glad he read the book first before seeing the movie.
“It’s better to read the book first. The movie destroys how you see (the characters),” he said.
Caitlin Throne, another Strawberry Park third-grader, said she was also excited to see the movie before she watched it with Holland on Saturday. However, she did say she was a little scared about how the movie would portray Lord Voldemort, the book’s evil wizard who murdered Harry’s parents.
Both Sperry and Throne were drawn to the Harry Potter books because of the fantasy world that Rowling makes so real, like Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, where Harry must go through a barrier to board the train for Hogwarts.
“For days and days, I just think about it,” Throne said. “It makes everything seem so real. You really believe there is a place that you could walk through a barrier and go to a wizard school.”
Another Harry Potter fan can be found at Lowell Whiteman Primary School. The school principal, Nancy Spillane, said she doesn’t know anyone who has read Harry Potter and not loved it, and that includes her teen-age son to the entire teaching staff at the school.
“The biggest thing I see is that it has opened up doors for literary conversations across generations,” she said.
Last year when the school picked names for their age divisions they used the four houses of Hogwarts and all the students had to either read or listen to the first book on tape.
Even with the movie, Spillane said the books would remain a favorite with youngsters.
“I think (Harry Potter) will easily be in the classical category. Those kinds of books live forever,” Spillane said. “I assume the books will still be read. I hope and pray the books will still be read.”
From the reaction of the children coming out of the movie theater, Spillane has little to worry about. Hannah Haovler, 11, said she liked the movie, but the book was better.
“The movie didn’t give out a lot of details the way the book did,” she said.
Austin Anderson, 12, agreed. He liked the book better but said the favorite part of the movie was watching the Quidditch game, a Rowling’s invention that is a combination of basketball and soccer on broomsticks.
But for Haovler’s mother, the movie was better than the book.
“I liked the movie better,” she said sheepishly. “It’s hard to visualize every single thing. The movie did a good job at that.”