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Wannabe Harrys crowd movie’s opening

Tickets sold on Web sites add to sold-out theater seating.
Thursday, July 12, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:42 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Professor Trelawney predicted the crowd of expectant Muggles that flooded Hollywood 14 theater’s lobby for the midnight premiere of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” She saw it in her crystal ball.

She didn’t, however, expect people would recognize her costume.

“Last year, people had no idea who I was,” said Trelawney, known to her Muggle friends as KT Arevalo. “This doubles as my Pirates of the Caribbean outfit.”

Arevalo arrived at the movie’s screening in full Trelawney regalia, complete with a regal, flowing purple skirt and an eccentric owl brooch. She was just one costumed fan among the hordes of night owls who showed up early for the release of the fifth Potter film at midnight Tuesday.

Several Harrys, Hermiones and assorted Hogwarts’ students peppered the predominantly high school and college-aged crowd, which had grown so large by 10:30 p.m. that the lines for the 12:10 and 12:20 a.m. screenings spilled outside.

Marcus Batton, marketing director for Hollywood 14, said the theater sold out three screenings — each of which seats 255 people — by 3:30 Tuesday afternoon.

The crowds continued Wednesday. By 4:15 p.m., one evening screening already had just one ticket left.

“Some night shows will probably continue to sell out for a while,” Hollywood 14 manager Stevie Calvin said. “It probably won’t slow down until Monday.”

Expanding popularity of ticket pre-sale Web sites such as MovieTickets.com and Fandango.com contributed to rapidly disappearing seats for screenings. MovieTickets.com announced Wednesday that “Order of the Phoenix” beat out “Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith” for the most pre-sale tickets ever sold by the site.

“Fandango is getting a lot more popular,” Calvin said. “We’re seeing more people find out about it and use it.”

The midnight Tuesday “Potter” shows attracted families with little kids and clusters of college coeds. The screenings offered moviegoers a long-awaited break from other Tuesday night rituals.

“I’d probably be at the bars if I weren’t here,” said MU student Brian Hansen.

Hansen and a crew of three friends played Yahtzee to kill time before they entered the theater. Others passed the hours with card games or pored through Potter novels.

Rachel Lee and Carmen Hannon-Patton stood in line for almost five hours so they could be the first fans in line. Hannon-Patton said the pair got to the theater about 7:15 p.m., but she said she’s still not a Harry “fanatic.”

“I’d say I’m more obsessed, and there’s a line between the two,” Hannon-Patton said. “But I’m not sure where it is.”

Jessica Berger said she’s willing to embrace her Harry Potter obsession. She came all the way from Kirksville, where the theater was only showing “Phoenix” on one screen and didn’t start selling tickets until Tuesday.

“We wanted to be completely sure we’d get tickets,” Berger said.

Berger, dressed in a Hogwarts’ school uniform, said she loves the films, but her deepest Potter passion stems from the franchise’s ability to inspire children to read.

“I’m studying to be a special education teacher,” Berger said. “And anything that get kids to read is wonderful. When was the last time a book had this much hype?”

The seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling’s series is due out next week.

“They made the books way before the movies, so the books are what made the movies possible,” said her friend, Abby Broyles.

But 9-year-old Mattison Little came even though she hadn’t read any of the books. She prefers Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

“I really like the Harry Potter movies,” she said. “I’m just excited for Harry and Cho to kiss.”

Steven Lacey, 13, decided he’d be content with a nice look at Emma Watson, the new Hollywood “It” girl who’s gained acclaim for her portrayal of the clever Hermione Granger.

His friend, Dakota Schalk, 13, offered a simple explanation: “He thinks she’s hot.”


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