Harry Potter spellbinds fans

Amy Thornton


The lines forming throughout Austin on Thursday afternoon had nothing to do with football games or music festivals. The people standing in line waved wands, shouted words like “expelliarmus” and displayed lightning-bolt scars on their foreheads.

Austin joined cities around the world in catching Harry Potter fever, with midnight showings of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1” bringing people to sold-out theaters around the city.

“It’s a very exciting atmosphere at a midnight showing,” said English senior Madison Gardner as she stood in line at Regal Gateway 16 theater. “During the show, people will clap and cheer, and there is definitely a community feel in the theater that you don’t get during other showings.”

Based on the seventh book in the fictional series written by J.K. Rowling, “Deathly Hallows” was sectioned into two movies to fit all of the material from the 784-page book into the films. With one more film left in the series, fans turned out in force to take part in the Harry Potter experience, standing in line as early as 2 p.m. outside theaters.

“Harry Potter is just magical,” Gardner said. “J.K. Rowling has created something that takes things that should be really cliche — like broomsticks, wizard hats and potions — and made them seem new and interesting. The expansive world she created has sucked us all in since the beginning.”

Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar added to the already-festive experience by transforming the lobby into a forest scene with live owls, witches, wizards and foaming cauldrons.

“We go to greater lengths for Harry Potter than other midnight showings,” said Kristen Bell, the theater’s general manager. “The fans drive us to be more creative and fun because they’re sitting out at 2 for a midnight screening. Their passion makes us want to entertain them.”

Bell said the South Lamar location sold out within 47 minutes of putting the tickets up for sale on Oct. 11. Along with the regular midnight showings, South Lamar hosted a Yule Ball, inspired by the white and silver-themed dance in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” the fourth novel in the series. Between the Yule Ball and regular showings, the theater maximized its capacity in all six theaters with 815 people. Bell estimated that across the Alamo Drafthouse franchises, the sold-out theaters housed approximately 2,000 fans.

Barton Creek Square theater also sold all of the seats in its 14 theaters, a total of approximately 2,500 seats. While the theaters do not raise ticket prices, the increase in concessions raises the per capita revenue. This is particularly true for Alamo Drafthouse, which sells Harry Potter-themed food and drinks such as Butterbeer.

“Our generation has grown up with Harry Potter. I read my first book in fourth grade,” said public relations senior Phoebe Francis. “We all waited for the books and movies to be released, and it brings out the child in all of us. In a way, Harry Potter to us is like ‘Star Wars’ to our parents.”