Harry Potter fans attend premiere in force

By Amy Friedenberger

Jon Goettler rolled a die while playing a trivia board game on the floor with his sister, mother… Jon Goettler rolled a die while playing a trivia board game on the floor with his sister, mother and friend in the midst of a massive crowd in the AMC Loews Waterfront Theater Thursday night. He wore a long gray robe, wig and beard as part of his Albus Dumbledore costume. Goettler is 23.

Then a man in a short, black wig and billowing black cape ran up to him and brandished a wand.

“Avada Kedavra!” Shane Conrad, 22, shouted before sprinting away.

Many of the fans that lined up for the midnight premiere of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1” wore wizard attire. Across the country, similar scenes unfolded in one of the highest ticket-selling weekends in movie history.

Warner Bros. estimated the midnight premiere ticket sales at $24 million, beating the $22 million record set by the previous film in the series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” The entire weekend brought in more than $120 million in the U.S. and Canada, and more than $330 million from fans of the series worldwide.

At Loews Theater, a swarm of people dressed as wizards in black cloaks and waving wands descended upon a small crowd dressed in everyday attire. The ground floor of the theater resembled a feast in Hogwarts’ Great Hall as people packed together hours before the premiere.

Whereas striped, knit scarves and drawn-on lightning-shaped scars on foreheads were most common, many fans, including Robert Hockenberry, arrived in full costume early in the evening.

Hockenberry, 32, stomped around the theater with a wooden walking staff, blonde wig, tan trench coat, fake protruding blue eyeball and drawn-on scars. Fans who swarmed him for pictures recognized him as Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody from Rowling’s books.

“This is the last film he’s in, and I’d always wanted to go as him since the fourth film,” Hockenberry said.

Hockenberry attended the opening for the Half-Blood Prince as Professor Horace Slughorn. He didn’t get involved with the series until the sixth book came out, but he made up for lost time by reading all six books in about a week.

Pitt student Mary Fakner, 19, combined the characters of Harry Potter and Hermione Granger in her costume. Her small, plastic kitchen broom allowed her to whisk around the theater on foot.

Fakner has been following the Harry Potter series since she was a child, but because she never received her acceptance letter into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, she likes to imagine the Cathedral of Learning as her Hogwarts.

Conrad, dressed as Severus Snape, has been following the series since the beginning.

“It’s a classic story of good versus evil,” he said. “It’s astonishing how [J.K. Rowling] created a different world. It’s hard not to be fascinated by it.”

He said his fiancée thinks he’s a “dork,” but he insisted on being the first in line because he wanted everyone to know that he’s more of a die-hard fan than others.

He was one among a group of fully-costumed fans that made up the front of the line. The only exception in the group was Cathie Boody, 56, who said her plain clothes represented Muggles.

She was waiting in line with her son Joey Moser, 26, who arrived at 4:30 p.m. for the midnight premiere. Moser came dressed as Harry Potter with a gray sweater, a scarlet and gold striped tie, a scar and a wand.

His Harry Potter obsession didn’t stay contained to the walls of the theater. He works at a bank Downtown, and he went to work that morning wearing a Harry Potter polo and carrying a drawstring bag with the Hogwarts crest.

“If obsessing about a book is crazy, then I don’t want to be sane,” Moser said.

Together, Moser and Conrad grabbed a shining blue trophy cup from the fourth film, the Triwizard Cup.

“Oh my god! It’s a Portkey! Ahhhh!” they shouted in unison, waving their hands in the air.

Also in the front of the line was Joann Docchil, 75, representing Professor McGonagall in her long, black felt cloak, emerald sweater and black witch’s hat.

She said that the Harry Potter series is not just for children, but also for older generations.

Not everyone who attended the midnight showing was a die-hard Harry Potter fan, but everyone who attended the screening found themselves immersed in the Harry Potter culture.

Patty Himes, 46, didn’t initially have plans to dress up, but “her friends made her.” Wearing thick spectacles, a bandana around a long mane of messy, brown hair and carrying a crystal ball, Himes said that she was proud to take the part of Professor Trelawney, a divination teacher.

When the doors to the theater opened, people presented their ticket stubs and sprinted through the hall to the theater.

“H-P! H-P! H-P!” everyone shouted, high-fiving each other as they ran.

Zachariah Swope, 19, arrived extra early for the “Harry Potter Adventure” experience. Loews offered a deal to patrons to view the fifth and sixth movies before the seventh film. Swope, who said he was dressed as a Muggle, showed up for the Monday premiere at 1 p.m.

“I come to the first movie showings out of a sense of loyalty,” Swope said.

He said that he’s loved each of the films that have come out. He said the most recent installment exceeded his expectations, and that he’s excited to see the same level of devotion to part one of the film applied to the second part.

The first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is bittersweet for fans. They can finally watch the anticipated final installment, but then the Harry Potter series comes to close.

“We don’t want to talk about it,” Conrad said. “In the past we could always wait for the next book or movie, but after the final movie, there isn’t anything next.”

“Even though the movies will be over, Harry Potter is going to be here forever,” Fakner said.