Under Harry’s spell

For 19 long months, fans of a boy wizard have waited for Hollywood
to again do its magic. Early this morning, they found themselves once more under his spell.
Friday, June 4, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:56 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Attention muggles: Don’t be alarmed at the sight of witches or wizards this weekend.

Mid-Missouri’s Harry Potter fans are out in full force, and full costume, for the opening weekend of “Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban” in local theaters.

Two hours before the movie had its debut at Hollywood Stadium 14 Theaters just after midnight Thursday, about 30 Harry Potter fans had already gathered inside the theater. Most carried wands and wore wizards’ capes or witches’ hats.

The group included nine church and school friends who’ve formed a club they call the Midwestern Institute of Sorcery, or MWIS, the Midwest equivalent of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that is the featured setting in Harry Potter’s magical world.

“I wanted to be here earlier, but everyone else vetoed me,” said MWIS member Sara Moeseo, 15, who is also president of the Reading Club at West Junior High School. “We planned to come as soon as we heard about the midnight show, which was weeks ago.”

Joe McKie, general manager of Columbia’s Hollywood Stadium 14 Theaters, predicted the costumed crowds well before the show.

“People dress up as wizards and wear Harry Potter glasses because these are significant icons of the movie’s characters,” said McKie.

Nine-year-old Logan Darling, who was spotted studying a Harry Potter book display at University Bookstore on Wednesday, doesn’t have to dress up to look the part of Harry Potter. His friends tell him he looks a lot like his favorite character when he wears his mother’s thick, dark-rimmed glasses. His friends are right. In fact, he dressed like Harry Potter for Halloween two years ago, scar and all.

Logan plans to see “The Prisoner of Azkaban” today, even though he’s yet to finish the book.

“The book didn’t sound the same as the movie,” he said, explaining that while the films are targeted more toward American audiences, the books have more of a British tone.

A true Potter fan, Logan said he owns figurines of Harry Potter and Ron Weasley with “almost every single wand.”

Both Hollywood 14 and Forum 8 cinemas prepared for such avid fans by scheduling midnight screenings and reserving multiple theaters for the show.

McKie began selling tickets for its show at 12:01 a.m. today a week in advance. By Wednesday evening, it was sold out. He plans to show the film on four of the 14 screens in the movie complex. Tickets for this weekend’s shows went on sale earlier this week.

Forum 8 also held a special showing at 12:01 a.m today and will show the film on three screens.

“The Prisoner of Azkaban,” Warner Brothers’ film sequel to “Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets,” is based on the third installment of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series about a young wizard learning to master his magical powers. In the third film, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his Hogwarts classmates Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) face the evils of an escaped Azkaban convict named Sirius Black and prison guards, called the Dementors.

“The Sorcerer’s Stone” and “The Chamber of Secrets” had a combined box-office gross of nearly $1.9 billion, according to Warner Brothers. The third film proved to be a hit when it opened in the United Kingdom on Monday. The Screen Daily Web site reported that the UK opening-day profits for “The Prisoner of Azkaban” more than doubled the opening-day revenue from “The Chamber of Secrets.”

Potter enthusiast and MU student Amy Sorensen believes “The Prisoner of Azkaban” will be even more popular than its predecessor.

“I think the second movie was based on a book that just wasn’t as good as the first,” Sorensen, 20, said. “I enjoyed the third book the most, so the movie will probably do better.”

Potter followers young and old await the final two books in the seven-book series, as well as future Harry Potter movies. Filming for the fourth film, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” is under way.

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