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Harry Potter magic soars into Oak Harbor theater

Home schooler Tommy Hawkins takes time out from his studies Friday to attend the 1 pm Harry Potter matinee at the Plaza Cinima in Oak Harbor. “I like the Harry Potter books because they are funny and adventerous.” said the 10-year-old Coupeville resident. - Ken George
Home schooler Tommy Hawkins takes time out from his studies Friday to attend the 1 pm Harry Potter matinee at the Plaza Cinima in Oak Harbor. “I like the Harry Potter books because they are funny and adventerous.” said the 10-year-old Coupeville resident.
— image credit: Ken George

It felt like the calm before a very big storm.

After a midnight sell-out at Friday’s premiere of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” the highly-hyped movie adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s preternaturally successful fantasy novel, the audience that showed up at Plaza Cinema 3 in Oak Harbor for the 1 p.m. showing seemed relatively unspectacular in size.

Such mildness won’t last, of course. Steve McMickle, the theater’s manager, said that he expects to sell-out every showing of the film during the first weekend run. Judging by the chaos of the premiere alone, this seems a safe bet.

“It was crazy,” McMickle said of the 12:01 a.m. screening. “It was a full house. People started lining up at 10:30.”

The film was completely sold-out by 11:15 Thursday night.

And when it was all over, the audience gave the inert screen a standing ovation, a testament not only to Harry Potter’s wizardry but to the transformative magic of cinema itself. “I haven’t seen that in quite a while,” McMickle said, guessing that Star Wars might have been the last time he witnessed such unfettered enthusiasm for a film.

“We had people who were allowing their kids to skip school so they could come,” said assistant manager Aliina Smith, who admitted that she enjoyed the thrill, bustle and energy of a packed house.

“I love it when it’s hectic,” said Smith.

The low-key atmosphere of the Friday afternoon matinee belied the simmering excitement of the Potterites in attendance, all of whom appeared quite conversant in the literary merits of Rowling’s oeuvre.

Donald Richardson, a 10-year-old who was one of many Oak Harbor Christian School students at the showing, said that he is a big fan of magic books, and that he finds the Harry Potter series to be the best of the lot. He said that he can relate to the travails of the lead character, difficulties that include “the normal stuff” such as problems with parents and school.

“It’s just something to think about,” said Richardson when asked to ponder why the books are so wildly popular, adding that he’d been anticipating the release of the movie adaptation since all the way back in fourth grade.

Ten-year-old Jonathan Ferguson, another student at Oak Harbor Christian School, said that he’d had a hard time sleeping the night before because he was so excited about the movie.

“I heard the movie is supposed to be real cool,” Ferguson said. One of the aspects of the Harry Potter books that he most enjoys is their strong spirit of adventure.

“They have the stuff that I like,” Ferguson said.

Christian School students had the afternoon off due to parent-teacher conferences.

Homeschooler Antoine Hickey, 15, has read all four of the Harry Potter books, which are among his favorite ever. He’s even perused some of Rowling’s lesser titles. As for the movie, which he’s been waiting to see for the last year?

“I don’t really expect it to be as good as the books,” said the young Oak Harbor resident.

Tommy Hawkins, 10, a homeschooler who lives in Coupeville, claimed that his favorite among the four Rowling’s books is “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” which is the second in the series.

“They’re really cool,” Hawkins said of the internationally successful young-adult novels. “They’re fun and adventurous.” And, he said, he expects the same high level of adventure to be represented in the movie as well.

What Hawkins most wanted to see, though, was “a lot of spells.”

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