For the past three and a half years of my life, I have been an employee of a local movie theatre. It’s not very difficult work (or extremely well paying work for that matter), but the people there are fun, the benefits are nice, and you get to see things that most people would never even imagine. Don’t worry; I’m not going to get all sentimental and sappy about life in the workforce. I’ve seen things that I will never be able to un-see, and Lord knows I’ve tried. People-watch at a local theatre for five minutes and I can almost guarantee that you are bound to see some great examples of strange human behavior. Add a pop-cultural phenomenon and sleep-depravity into the mix, and you have the potential for the zaniest antics to hit a theatre since somebody spiked the Icee machine.
I arrived at the theatre around 6 p.m. for the advanced employee screening of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” and, for what it’s worth, I liked it. However, it wasn’t my favorite in the series by any stretch. The pacing and flow in the first half of the film was clunky and slow, and I keep getting the feeling that these past three movies have just been filling time and not really doing much in terms of plot. The movie was entertaining enough, though, and the acting and direction keep getting better. It’s almost even getting to the point that I can tolerate Daniel Radcliffe.
However, the movie was the least entertaining part of my evening. After the credits rolled, I put on my ill-fitting tuxedo and bowtie and took my place at the ticket-ripping podium. Every single Harry Potter nerd, which by the end of the night was 1,200 people, was going to be going past me. I was essentially the bouncer for the hottest book club in town. When I had arrived at 6 pm., there were only about six people in our designated “Harry Potter Midnight Lounge,” which was a blocked off parking lot. As I took my post at 9:15 p.m., it was completely full. Seven sold-out theatres worth of people were standing outside in 35-degree weather, many of which were wearing costumes Lady Gaga would find tacky. I have worked several midnight showings before, but this was a whole new level of commitment. Take that, Twilight fans.
Eventually, we released the masses into the theater. They all piled in, and I greeted every single one. Amazingly, everyone seemed very calm and composed in their wizard outfits. Most of them had probably been to midnight showings before and knew that there were seats for everyone. In comparison, “Eclipse” was a nightmare; everyone was screaming and running, and any person daring to skip would feel a wrath unlike anything seen before. It also probably didn’t help matters that I had brought my picture with Robert Pattinson, which made many fans act like zombies, grabbing for my Edward-blessed self. One person actually hugged me; I yelled for help.
As the throngs of fans entered the theater and thrusted their tickets at me, I got a better look at the costumes on display. The most seen costume was easily Hermoine, which ranged from Accurate Hermoine to Skanky Hermoine. One young Hogwarts schoolgirl even brought along textbooks with fake class names on them. When I asked about them, she said that studying for biology is a lot more fun when you say that it’s defense against the dark arts.
The best costume on display was a person dressed as Hedwig the owl. If you asked anyone in the theater about the feather girl, they knew exactly who you were talking about. She was covered in white feathers and a strange bird beak mask seemingly pulled out of my worst nightmares. When I first saw her, I thought she was some kind of eagle demon. Then I thought I was seeing things like Natalie Portman in “Black Swan.” I finally determined that she was, in fact, a real person. I was going to ask how much homework had been skipped in order to make that winged monstrosity, but I had 500 more tickets to rip, so I guess the world will never know.
The fans were finally all seated, the food was all sold, and the films were nearing their starts. In many of the theaters, some fans acted out the YouTube phenomenon, Harry Potter Puppet Pals, in front of the entire auditorium. Others studied for tests while the lights were still up and the movie had yet to start. Eventually, however, the movie started, and school would have to take a backseat to wizard duels, horcruxes, and tragic Dobby-related deaths.
So what is it about Harry Potter that creates moments like this? Why do fans come out in throngs at ungodly hours on school nights to see a movie that will be the same at noon the next day? The fact that we’ve all read the books and become invested in the J.K. Rowling adventures plays a good role, but that alone cannot explain the effect of the movies.
I think, when it comes down to it, we’ve come to take these film characters as friends. Warner Brothers allowed audiences to actually grow up with these characters. We’ve seen them as kids, teenagers, and now basically adults. It’s a connection unlike any film series, which may actually be the most magical part of Harry Potter.
by Matt Mueller