You could say that Friday’s release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is merely the end of a film series.

But Connor Igo would strongly disagree. With good reason.

Igo is one of the millions of young people who have counted Harry Potter as an integral part of their lives for nearly as long as they can remember. Their lives have been intertwined with the engrossing books, the captivating films and the worldwide network of Potter fans.

So while Igo is excited to see the series’ last film as soon as he can — he plans to see the 12:01 a.m. showing Friday in 3D IMAX at Saco Cinemagic — he’s also understandably somber.

“I think it’s going to be really good, based on interviews I’ve seen, but it is kind of sad for me,” said Igo, 18, of South Portland. “I’ve grown up with those books. I remember my dad and my sister reading them to me. My life progressed with the books and the films. So it’s really weird to me that, after this, there won’t be any more.”

Because an entire generation has thrilled to Harry Potter’s exploits from grammar school days to college years, the last film is as highly anticipated as any in recent memory.

Theaters all across Maine will hold special midnight showings tonight (12:01 a.m. Friday to be exact) and then show the film on multiple screens from Friday on. Some drive-in theaters will show “Deathly Hallows: Part 1” at nightfall tonight, followed by “Part 2” just after midnight.

Fans of all ages, from small children to their grandparents, are preparing for their chance to see the film.

Igo, for instance, was scheduled to get his wisdom teeth out Wednesday morning, then meet with a group of friends Wednesday afternoon to adorn tie-dyed T-shirts with Potter-themed decorations.

“We just wanted something different. Anyone can dress up as the characters; we thought this would be more fun,” said Igo, who plans to major in engineering at Northeastern University in Boston, beginning this fall.

Meghan Gaven of South Portland plans to see a 12:01 a.m. showing Friday with her two teenage daughters, some friends of hers and their teenage children. The teenagers were going to prepare for the film by getting together to watch DVDs of all the prior “Potter” films, over two days.

“They’re planning to watch something like 20 hours of movies, about 10 hours a day,” Gaven said this week. “We told them to turn (the TV) on and just leave it on. ‘You’ve all seen them already, so don’t stop it if someone needs to go to the bathroom or make a sandwich. If you do that, you’ll never finish in time.'”

Gaven, whose daughters are 13 and 14, said her daughters will probably dress up for the theater. They have accumulated enough Potter trinkets and garb over the years to turn themselves into a variety of characters, she said. She will not dress up, though she is a big fan of the books and the films.

“They’re easy to read, with engaging characters. And I like the fact that Hermione is the smart one of the group, having daughters,” said Gaven.

The universe of Harry Potter — a young wizard in training who lives in a complex world of magical mysteries and dark pitfalls — began when the first book in J.K. Rowling’s seven-book series came out 15 years ago.

The first of the eight films, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” came out in 2001. The films, collectively, have been dubbed the most popular film series in history, based on attendance. The books have sold 450 million copies.

Given that kind of buildup, it’s no surprise that theaters are bracing for huge crowds for this final film chapter in the Potter saga.

“This is as big (an opening) as I can remember, in the 12 years I’ve been doing this,” said Bob Collins, director of marketing for the three Cinemagic theaters in southern Maine. “And because this is the last one, we expect a lot of people won’t want to let go and will see the film two or three times. The one that came closest to this was maybe the last of the ‘Star Wars’ films.”

Like most theaters, the Cinemagic theaters have been pre-selling tickets to “Part 2” for about month. Collins said some tickets to the midnight showings will probably be available today, but he expects all of the midnight showings to sell out.

Collins said the staff at the Cinemagic in Saco, including many Potter fans, has gone all out to decorate the theater, including a massive depiction of the Hogwarts train near the theater’s entrance.

At the nearby Saco Drive-In on Route 1, all the managers are business students at the University of Southern Maine, so they understand the Potter generation.

They will show “Deathly Hallows: Part 1” at nightfall tonight, then “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” around midnight.

They will give away a Potter movie poster to the people in the first car into the drive-in – the gates open at 7 p.m. – and everyone who attends will be registered to win a Nook Book from Barnes & Noble.

Though drive-ins don’t usually sell tickets ahead of time, the Saco Drive-In has seen a steady stream of people looking for advance tickets to this last Potter film, said Ry Russell, one of the managers.

“It’s very unusual for a drive-in to pre-sell tickets, but we had a line of 25 cars down Route 1 waiting for tickets one night,” said Russell.

It may be unusual, but the who Potter phenomenon is pretty unusual.

“For me, it’s just been kind of nice to be absorbed in something else,” said Igo. “It’s not the real world. It’s been an alternate reality that provides a nice break.”

 


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