Ending nearly 10 years of premieres, midnight Friday marked the release of the final chapter in the Harry Potter saga, and Harford County fans of the ubiquitous wizard of literature and big screen fame were all ready for the momentous event.
In 2001, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," the first of the movies, debuted in the United States, continuing a phenomenon that began with J. K. Rowling's now famous book series, popular with young adults.
Legions of fans have been attached to the lives of Harry, Hermione and Ron as they explored Hogwarts and grew up in the wizarding world.
Well, early Friday morning was expected to bring a final cinematic curtain down on Harry and friends in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" that opened in theaters at midnight.
The movie finale picks up where Part 1 left off, following Harry, Ron and Hermione on their quest to find and destroy Horcruxes, various items that hold pieces of Voldemort's soul and the key to his destruction.
With the seventh and final piece of the story showing, local theaters stepped up to the challenge. Regal Cinemas, of Bel Air, which is actually in Abingdon, was sold out of midnight tickets for days but as of Thursday afternoon was still offering seats at 3 a.m. showings.
Marketing Manager Jewel Gallagher, for Regal's northern region, said in general, Regal Entertainment Group has been selling out the entire weekend.
"Regal has more than $10 million in advance ticket sales," she said, "and that breaks all records."
Flagship Cinemas, in Churchville, too, was sold out and Assistant Manager Mike Dyson said they were expecting around 450 people for the midnight show.
"This seems to be a little heavier than average," Dyson added.
This is not surprising for the movies in the series, which together have grossed more than $2 billion nationwide and $6.4 billion worldwide, according to http://www.hollywood.com. Opening day for Deathly Hallows Part 1 alone grossed $61.7 million.
Because the book and movie releases were staggered throughout the years, many fans were able to grow up in a way with Harry, Ron and Hermione. Meghan Heeter, of Bel Air, has been a fan of Harry Potter for years, she said, starting when her mother read the book series.
"She read all of the books," Heeter said of her mom. "We've grown up watching the movies and I love the whole idea of the wizards and magic and just the whole idea of Harry Potter."
Meghan had tickets to the midnight premiere at Regal Cinemas, but it was not the first time she'd stayed up late for a Harry Potter flick.
"I've gone to previous midnight showings," she said, "and I think its more exciting being at the theater at midnight seeing it the first time it comes out."
For Allison Walczyk, also of Bel Air, Harry Potter has been a part of her childhood, too.
"I followed the series since I was little," she said Thursday. "I've grown up with the characters."
Although she personally does not plan to dress up for the movie, Walczyk said her friend is dressing up like Voldemort's snake, Nagini.
The last Harry Potter midnight showing she attended was for "The Half Blood Prince," Walczyk said, and she was "really excited" for the latest release and wanted to do the midnight showing, especially because it could be the last.
"It's weird that it's ending finally," she added later, "and I think that it adds some weird closure to my childhood at the same time."