BRADENTON — Wizardry was afoot at many area theaters that lured large crowds for the midnight premiere of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” — the sixth film in the Potter series.
The film features Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts, the famed wizard school in JK Rowling’s best selling book series.
Prior to the late-night screening, it was a busy day for area theaters as they booked early requests for tickets from die-hard Potter fans.
Oakmont 8 on Cortez Road had nearly 200 seats reserved collectively for two theaters at the complex by mid-afternoon. That turned to three by early evening. Employees at the theater were expecting about 500 fans to attend the new release. At East Bradenton’s Royal Palm 20, about 1,000 people were expected. By 4 p.m., two of its 236-seat theaters had already sold out for the show with a third theater half way there, officials said. In all, four area theaters in Bradenton and Sarasota were casting spells of late screenings.
As part of the fan-fare, Royal Palm featured an all-day Harry Potter marathon, which began at 9 a.m. with screenings of the first five films. The marathon, which attracted about 100 people, included lunch and dinner for Potter followers, who were bound to be hungry viewing films all day.
Friends Brittany Goodman and Jennifer Buck, both 22 of Bradenton, viewed the third film in the marathon, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” They chuckled at the fact that the theater posted a disclaimer to the audience before the film rolled: Please put wands away. It could distract from the film.
Goodman said there was a crowd in attendance. Some people were dressed in capes, carrying wands and other magical objects. Buck thought she saw someone with an invisibility cloak, but she wasn’t quite sure. Maybe that meant the cloak was working.
Though Buck and Goodman weren’t dressed in Potter wear, they were tempted to appear in costume for the midnight screening — tickets were bought a week in advance. It comes of no surprise that they’ve read most of the books and have seen all the films in the Potter series. All fans claim to have done one or the other, or both. Buck said she loves the alternate reality the books present.
Her friend couldn’t agree more.
“It’s fun because it’s about magic,” Goodman said. “You always think about magic as impossible but Harry Potter makes it possible.”
Earlier, outside the theater, thrilled Bradenton residents Tony Killingsworth, 22, and Stephanie Hume, 17, were debating on attending part of the marathon. In hand was a confirmation paper for tickets bought via the Internet on Monday to the midnight screening. The pair planned to wear special T-shirts created by Hume.
Killingsworth said he’s grown up with the books and the films, which debuted when he was in middle school. He wasn’t shy about revealing how deep his love all things Potter is. He’s read the books about three times through. Seeing the films are always an extra treat.
“It’s kind of like our ‘Lord of the Rings’,” he said of the Potter franchise.
Over at Sarasota’s Hollywood 20, employees were preparing for a full evening of Potter mania. By late afternoon, nearly five theaters, each with 260 seats, were sold out at the complex. Three more were on stand-by for more eager crowds in what maybe one of the biggest Potter film openings there, an employee said.
The magical pomp and circumstance of Potter was a hot topic among several Bradenton families who decided to wait until next week to see the film. At Royal Palm, pre-teen Michayla Stoddard, her three siblings and mother, Chastity, said they are Potter fans through and through.
“It rocks,” Michayla said.