‘Harry Potter’ goes bump in the night...

By David German The Associated Press
Saturday November 17, 2001

Toll of midnight lures fans to movie theaters



LOS ANGELES — The early word from night owls who caught “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”: Spellbinding, with some reservations. 

Thousands of “Harry Potter” fans waited until a minute past the midnight hour, when they got their first chance to watch a boy wizard on his broomstick. Audiences reveled until 2:30 a.m. in the big-screen adventure about Harry, his freshman year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and his battle with the dark wizard Voldemort. 

“I loved it,” said Marilyn Senders, 51, who saw the movie in the Philadelphia suburb of Plymouth Meeting. “I can’t believe it was two-and-a-half hours. It felt like 10 minutes.” 

“It was very faithful to the book,” said Matt Terl, 25, who watched it in Baltimore. “Everything looked the way I pictured it in my head, which is about the best thing you could say about an adaptation.” 

Still, some fans left wanting more, wishing the film ran longer to preserve more from the book. 

“They cut a lot out of it,” said sleepy-eyed 7-year-old Edna Gardza, who saw the movie in Atlanta. “But I liked it still.” 

English teacher Suzie Thetard of Normal, Ill., caught the film in Baltimore, where she was attending a convention. While she loved the movie, “I still love the book more,” she said. “There’s just so much more to it. Little things that don’t make the movie bad but enrich the book so much.” 

“Harry Potter” opens in a record 3,672 theaters on about 8,200 screens, nearly a fourth of the nation’s movie screens. 

The movie is likely to break revenue records this weekend, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. 

The single-day box-office record is held by “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace,” which took in $28.5 million on opening day in 1999. “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” delivered the best three-day opening ever, grossing $72.1 million in its first weekend in 1997. 

In Boston, about 600 people were lined up for “Harry Potter” 45 minutes before a midnight show started.  

Outside a Manhattan cinema, Carri Linehan, 28, waited in line with a Harry Potter-like lightning bolt on her forehead that a makeup-artist friend had applied.  

The packed house in Plymouth Meeting applauded during the opening credits, the quidditch match played on flying broomsticks and at the film’s end. 

Marc Bianchi brought his sons Phillip, 14, and Ben, 11, for the Plymouth Meeting show. He figured the boys might show up a bit late for school Friday. 

“They won’t do great on their tests tomorrow, but in the long run, it’s nice to do something with my kids,” Bianchi said. 

Directed by Chris Columbus, the film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, and Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as his pals Ron and Hermione. The adult cast includes Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman and Robbie Coltrane. 

The movie is heavy on visual wizardry used to create the labyrinthine Hogwarts school, a troll and other creatures, and such highlights as the quidditch match. Some of the movie’s finest effects are its least showy: Owls flocking around the home of Harry’s non-magical, Muggles relatives, candles and floating jack-o-lanterns to illuminate the Hogwarts banquet hall. 

“The quidditch match was intense,” said John Garcia, 21, who attended a screening in Atlanta. “I’ll come watch it again just for that.” 

Like some fans, though, Garcia said the film omitted too much from the book. 

“It was kind of choppy for somebody who hadn’t read the books. It would be hard to follow,” Garcia said. 

Created by British author J.K. Rowling, the “Harry Potter” series debuted in 1997 with “Sorcerer’s Stone.” It had good reviews but only modest sales until readers began talking it up into a phenomenon whose first four books have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide. By the time book four — “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” — came out last year, fans lined up in the wee hours at bookstores to grab the first copies. 

People turning out for midnight screenings are the true “Harry Potter” believers, predisposed to like the film, said Tom Kiefaber, owner of Baltimore’s Senator theater, which ran one of the overnight showings. How the film will fare with others is uncertain, he said. 

“It appears that the faithful really loved it,” Kiefaber said. “The people that come to these shows are fervent and fanatical about the film. So when the general public comes, we’ll see.”