"Fans just wild about Harry"
by Karen Goldberg Goff ("Washington Times," November 16, 2001)
Children, adults excited about seeing first 'Potter' movie
Kaia Kroke can't wait until tonight, when she will get to see "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" on the movie screen.
"I would go earlier in the day, but we have to wait for my parents to get home so we can all see it," says Kaia, a sophomore at South Lakes High School in Reston.
Kaia, her 9-year-old brother and her parents have read all four of the Harry Potter books, written by British author J.K. Rowling. They ordered their tickets online weeks ago and will go together to the 7 p.m. showing to see if Hogwarts, Harry and Hagrid look the way the Krokes imagined.
The Krokes are among thousands of Washington-area Harry Potter fans who will be seeing the much-anticipated movie on opening day. They also are typical of how movie patrons can now get in line for blockbusters without leaving the comfort of their own homes.
Two years ago, the opening of "The Phantom Menace" had fans of the "Star Wars" film series lining the blocks outside theaters from Connecticut Avenue to College Park. Through theater Web sites and general ticket sites such as Moviefone.com, Fandango.com and Movietickets.com, patrons can now go online to reserve and pay for their seats. Movietickets.com reported earlier this week that "Harry Potter" tickets were moving five times faster than any other previous blockbuster.
"We have certainly sold a significant amount of tickets, more than any other film," says Mindy Tucker, a vice president with the Lowes and Cineplex Odeon chain, which will show the movie on more than 300 screens nationwide.
Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., told the Associated Press that the movie will play at a record 3,672 locations on about 8,200 screens.
The film's marketers are hoping "Harry" will appeal to a wide-ranging audience. The books have been lauded by grade-schoolers - who can relate to young Harry's realization that he is not just an orphan, but a wizard - all the way to adults, who are equally captivated by the rich imagery and dark mysticism of the book.
Heather and Michael Skigen, both 31, have tickets, also purchased online, to an opening-day show. They will be leaving their three young daughters at home with a baby sitter, though. This evening is for adults only.
"I think it is too scary for [4-year-old daughter] Wittney," says Mrs. Skigen, of Vienna. "I won't even read the book to her. I think she is too young."
Mrs. Skigen, however, has read all four books and calls herself "totally addicted" to the series. She has high expectations for the movie.
"From what I've heard, the special effects are awesome," she says. "We are going to go early on Friday to get good seats."
Elissa Brandolph of Fairfax also has her tickets. She will skip opening day in favor of Nov. 25, however. That's the date of her 11th birthday party, a Harry Potter fete that will include taking nearly a dozen friends to see the film.
"We had Harry Potter invitations," says Elissa's mother, Deborah Brandolph. "We're going to get Harry Potter plates and goody bags and everything else." Elissa decided nearly a year ago that this would be the theme of her party. She has read three of the four books, and last summer attended a Girl Scout Camp where it was all things Harry Potter. At camp, the Muggles - as non-magical mortals are called in Harry Potter's world - played Quidditch, the soccerlike game practiced at Hogwarts, and ate Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans.
"I have seen previews of the movie, and it looks cool," Elissa says. Heather Lawver, a 16-year-old from Sterling, says she has mixed feelings about the movie's debut. Heather is the founder of dprophet.com, a Web site for children and teens that is written as though the Harry Potter stories are real. She says the books are appealing because "they are a classic tale of someone with a depressing life who finds out he is fantastic and special on the inside."
Heather, who organized a boycott of Warner Bros. earlier this year after the studio tried to get her site shut down, says the movie might be the end of Harry Potter the literary figure.
"I'm afraid it will change how we see Harry in our imagination," she says.
"Every single Harry Potter fan has created a face for Harry. Now, when they picture him they will only see Daniel Radcliffe" - the actor who plays Harry in the movie.
Heather is also concerned that religious groups, who have been opposed to themes of sorcery and witchcraft in the books, will now have more fuel for their argument when the movie comes out.
"I am incredibly nervous," the teen-ager says. "The whole Harry Potter franchise has always been a big target for fundamentalists, and I am worried the movie, which looks kind of dark, will prove them right. At least with the books, it wasn't much of an argument because you can interpret a book however you want. With a movie, the image is already there for you."
Heather says she will still see the movie, though. Coincidentally, she will be in Harry territory - London - today. She has tickets to see the movie at the same theater where the British premiere was held last week.
The teen had planned on going in costume, but since the feud with Warner Bros., she has decided to remain restrained.
"I have a huge, green satin dress like [Harry´s teacher] Meg McGonagall's," Heather says. "I was thinking of wearing it to the opening. But now I don't think I will."