Grand finale for Harry’s faithful

Potter fans who grew up with the wizard still spellbound

Paul and Joe DeGeorge make up the band Harry and the Potters. They base their songs on material from the Harry Potter books and perform at bookstores and libraries. Paul and Joe DeGeorge make up the band Harry and the Potters. They base their songs on material from the Harry Potter books and perform at bookstores and libraries. (Dina Rudick/ Globe Staff)
By Jialu Chen
Globe Staff / July 12, 2011

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When Anna Kelsey was 11 years old, a Globe reporter found her standing in line outside WordsWorth bookstore in Harvard Square. Costumed as Professor McGonagall, she was waiting to purchase a copy of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,’’ which was going on sale at midnight. “I’ve been waiting three years for this,’’ she was quoted saying that night.

Now a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard, Kelsey still adores all things Potter. She’s about to attend her last midnight release this week, when the final Harry Potter movie, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,’’ comes out. She is trying to reread all seven books before the event and is planning to dress up as Ginny Weasley when she gets in line Thursday night.

As anticipation builds for the final chapter of a 14-year saga, Boston-area theaters are preparing like never before for fans like Kelsey.

Just after midnight, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2’’ will play in all 19 auditoriums at AMC Boston Common - that’s more than 4,000 seats - and all 13 at Regal Fenway, and all of the screenings are already sold out. Fans are expected to begin lining up at 8 p.m. Thursday. More showings starting at 3 a.m. have been added to meet demand. If those aren’t sufficient, 6 a.m. showings might be added.

There are plenty of midnight screenings outside the city, too. Showcase Cinemas Revere and Showcase Cinemas Woburn are each doing four midnight showings. Showcase Cinemas in Randolph is scheduling eight midnight showings, and people who attend the 3-D version will receive a pair of commemorative 3-D Harry Potter glasses, shaped like the glasses Harry wears in the movie. AMC theaters in the suburbs are showing midnight screenings as well.

Theaters are also giving fans an opportunity to reacquaint themselves with the film series, which has earned more than $6 billion worldwide. AMC Boston Common and AMC Liberty Tree Mall last night began running a weeklong marathon of all the “Harry Potter’’ films, with two movies shown each night. Though there are only seven Harry Potter books, there are eight movies, because the last book was split into two.

Fans who have read the books know what to expect. After seven years of training at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry and his friends will face the evil wizard Lord Voldemort in a final, climactic battle. Over the past decade, the characters, the actors, and the plots have aged with their audience. The first film, 2001’s “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,’’ was a tame movie aimed at the Disney crowd, but each sequel has grown progressively darker and more violent.

As the climax of a tale that has lasted a generation, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2’’ has a lot to live up to.

“All of my friends are disappointed about this last movie coming out because it’s the end of a certain era where we could all read the Harry Potter books and be fascinated by it,’’ said Patrick Greeley, 19, a sophomore theater major at Emerson College. “The movie coming out is another way to prolong that excitement, even though it’s not quite as exciting as a new book. It keeps it going that much longer.’’

Greeley feels a special bond with the series, because when he was 7 he had a chance to sip hot chocolate with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling when she visited a local radio station. When Rowling signed his copy of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,’’ she wrote that his eyes looked as she imagined Harry’s did.

Though he is loyal first and foremost to the books, he appreciates what the movies add. “It’s one thing to read it and envision it,’’ he said, “but it’s cool to see that brought to life.’’

Allison Gillette, a film major at Emerson, is a “die-hard’’ fan of the books. She says that when she turned 11 she cried because she didn’t receive an owl bearing an acceptance letter from Hogwarts, as Harry did in the first book. She’s gone to every midnight release of the books and the movies since she was in fourth grade, and she purchased tickets for Friday’s release a few hours after they went on sale.

“Everyone [at the midnight premiere] is so excited,’’ she said. “All that adrenaline turns into this positive energy for the movie.’’ But she’s often disappointed when she sees the movie the second time around, without the buzz of a new release.

She much prefers a more interactive form of engagement with the book - playing Quidditch, a sport depicted in the books. Gillette is the commissioner of the Emerson Quidditch Organization, whose members play a nonmagical, or Muggle, version of the game. She plans to attend the premiere with a contingent from the Emerson team at AMC Boston Common, in costume and Quidditch regalia.

Paul and Joe DeGeorge, brothers from Norwood, both dress as Harry Potter when they perform as the rock duo Harry and the Potters.

Paul, 32, says Harry Potter embodies all the characteristics of punk rock. “He stands up for his beliefs against all challenges - teachers, government officials, Voldemort.’’ Paul is so inspired by Harry Potter that he cofounded the Harry Potter Alliance, which encourages volunteerism in the spirit of Harry Potter, and the Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club, which releases a CD of wizard rock - rock music inspired by Harry Potter - every month.

But it’s hard for Paul to get worked up about the film.

“The anticipation for this movie is nothing like what it was for the seventh Harry Potter book, because that was when all secrets were to be revealed,’’ he said. “I don’t think we’re ever going to see anything on that order again - the whole world waiting in line for a book.’’

Kelsey, an aspiring filmmaker, is also a bigger fan of the books than the movies. The first time she saw a Harry Potter movie, she was tremendously disappointment. She enjoys them now, because she manages her expectations. “You realize there’s only so much you can fit from a 700-page book into a movie. You have to make cuts, and you can’t make everybody happy.’’

Her enjoyment is also a matter of will. “You want to like it and have good memories,’’ Kelsey said.

It is, after all, her last chance to feel the excitement of a midnight release, to wait in line with other like-minded fans, to dress up as a beloved character, and to have a new Harry Potter experience for the first time.