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Harry Potter brings magic to theater

Cassie Wilson, left, of Catonsville, dressed as Madam Professor Dolores Jane Umbridge, takes her ticket stub from Steven Taylor before entering the Hollywood Theatre for the midnight showing of "Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows-Part 2."
Cassie Wilson, left, of Catonsville, dressed as Madam Professor Dolores Jane Umbridge, takes her ticket stub from Steven Taylor before entering the Hollywood Theatre for the midnight showing of "Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows-Part 2." (Staff photo by Jen Rynda, Patuxent Publishing)

After 400 million books sold and $2 billion at the box office, the final film, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II," opened at midnight July 15 at the Hollywood Theatre.

Not since "Spider-Man 2" premiered in 2004 had the theater on Oregon Avenue seen such a mad rush to the silver screen on an opening weekend, said Larry Bell, who has served as general manager of the Arbutus theater since 2004.

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"I couldn't wait for this one to come out," Bell said, his enthusiasm still bubbling three days after the movie premiered. "I was well prepared. I had plenty of staff on. We were on the top of our game."

More than 230 people came to watch the midnight showing at the 76-year-old neighborhood theater, where the capacity in the auditorium is about 280, Bell said.

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Of those, the Arbutus resident estimated that a third dressed up as their favorite character.

"It was fantastic, all the little witches and warlocks coming out. It was great," said Bell, who worked at the theater from 1985 to 1995, the year it burned down, before returning in 2004. "We encourage the dress up."

The success of at the Hollywood Theatre matches the success of the movie in the rest of North America as it drew $43.5 million just for its midnight showings, according to the website of Voice of America.

As it did for the movie's opening weekend, the four-screen theater will dedicate two of its auditoriums to Harry Potter, said David Phillips, the chief operating officer of RC Theatres.

RC Theatres owns 12 theaters in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida and North Carolina, including the Hollywood Theatre.

Phillips, who noted the film made more than $165 million on its opening weekend, said they put the movie in two auditoriums "to help accommodate any extra folks."

"We're going to have Harry Potter on two screens again this week," Bell said.

While Potter has juiced sales, Bell said the theater has buzzed throughout the summer thanks to the free movies it offers at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

More than 270 people packed the house to see "How to Train Your Dragon" a few weeks ago, said Bell, who noted that the theater will have free showings of "Shrek Forever After" July 26 and 27.

But even a free movie isn't as attractive to viewers as Harry Potter right now.

Asked if sales would continue to be strong in part two's second week, Bell said, "It looks like it."

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