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A spell that has held - through 7 books and 8 films

Droves of Potter devotees crowd midnight premiere of last installment

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By Jialu Chen
Globe Staff / July 16, 2011

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They gathered at the AMC Boston Common multiplex hours early, hundreds of Harry Potter fans, some dressed like Hogwarts students in black cloaks and rep ties, others in peaked wizard caps and woolly beards.

Besides an abiding love for the J.K. Rowling book series that has enchanted their generation, the churning throng of fans had another thing in common: precious tickets to the sold-out midnight premiere of the final movie, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.’’

Alexandra French, 17, drove 12 hours to Boston from Nova Scotia to attend yesterday’s first showing at AMC Boston Common, where all 19 theaters screened the highly anticipated finale - and all 19 were sold out. The story was the same across the country, where Potter midnight showings were held at 3,800 theaters and took in a jaw-dropping $43.5 million, making it the top grossing midnight opening of all time.

“We do have midnight premieres in Canada,’’ French said, “but they’re smaller and there’s not as much hype.’’

By 10 p.m., the Boston Common crowds were streaming into the theater, and the anticipation was building. Soon, long lines snaked from the bathrooms and the concession stands. Some fans had been waiting so long they went back for a second round of snacks. They grew more and more anxious as midnight s-l-o-w-l-y approached, murmuring to each other, “Has it started?’’

In the thick of the crowd, the chatter was all Harry Potter all the time. And what an array of characters, adventures, and heartbreaks to discuss. The best-selling Potter series spans seven novels (which have now been adapted into eight films) and the entire childhoods not just of its wizarding protagonists Harry, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley but of its readers, many of whom grew up happily obsessed by the books.

“Before, there was always another,’’ remarked a wistful Karen Smith, a 17-year-old from Belmont who will be attending Amherst in the fall. She was seeing “Deathly Hallows: Part 2’’ with four friends, all of whom were about the same age and in costume.

They began to debate the pronunciation of a summoning spell, accio.

“In the audio books, it’s ack-io. It has two c’s!’’ said Eli Siskind authoritatively. Siskind, 18, was dressed as Fenrir Greyback, a werewolf. But the others disagreed, saying that the spell was pronounced ass-E-oh. (The movie characters use the latter pronunciation.)

“I thought it only had one c,’’ Smith confessed.

“And you call yourself a Harry Potter fan!’’ Siskind scoffed.

“I trained my dog to come at accio,’’ Emily Rifkin, 18, another friend, added as an aside. Rifkin was dressed as the Golden Snitch, a bright flying ball integral to the magical game of Quidditch.

As the wizarding hour approached, some fans conceded that they weren’t quite ready to see the series come to a close.

“I’m not ready for it to end,’’ said Rachel Byrd, 19. “My mom bought me the first book for my 9th birthday. That’s what got me into reading - I didn’t like to read until I read my first Harry Potter book.’’ She is currently attending Harvard.

When a scene from the very first Harry Potter film begins to play as a teaser in theater 17, the audience issued a collective sigh. Somebody started whistling the Harry Potter theme song. Others chanted, “Har-ry, Har-ry, Har-ry.’’ Finally, the theater darkened, the movie rolled, and the audience broke into mass applause.

One hundred thirty heart-pounding, elating, and tear-jerking minutes later, the fans filed out. “I’m going to go home and sob to myself,’’ said Alexa Capabianco, 21, a senior at Northeastern whose black Bellatrix Lestrange makeup was smeared by tears. She was part of an entire theater filled with Northeastern students - an event organized by the university.

By 2:30 a.m., a new line snaked out the door composed of fans who hadn’t been able to get tickets to the midnight shows and settled for a 3 a.m. screening. Eventually, not all that long before sunrise, they too emerged, some as wrung out and emotional as Capabianco had been.

Vania Santana, 27, tried to be upbeat about the end of the Potter series, saying it will continue to play a central role in the lives of its first generation fans.

“I don’t think it’s ever going to be over for us,’’ she said after seeing the midnight show. “With the movies and books, we’re always going to revisit Harry Potter.’’

Globe correspondents Martine Powers and Neena Satija contributed to this report. Jialu Chen can be reached at jchen@globe.com.

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