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Fans vow 'Pottermania' will endure

From the Indian metropolis of Mumbai to the dusty plains of Texas, frenzied fans across the globe are barely a week away from the release of the eighth and final film in the Harry Potter series.

For those who have spent nearly 15 years with the books and movies, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2," which premieres in London July 7 and opens worldwide from July 13, is the end — a final curtain falling on a narrative that has held them rapt for the bulk of their lives.

Since 1997, the fictional boy wizard has gathered a massive global following — there are 28 million followers of the movies alone on Facebook — often dubbed the "Harry Potter generation."

"Some of the most ardent fans feel that they grew up right alongside Harry; as he aged, so did they," said Edmund Kern, a professor who teaches a Potter course at Lawrence University in Wisconsin and the author of "The Wisdom of Harry Potter."

The seven books in the Potter series have sold nearly half a billion copies worldwide and the first seven movies have grossed $6.4 billion for Warner Bros. since the release of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's (Sorcerer's) Stone" in 2001.

J.K. Rowling, the author of the books, has amassed more money than the queen of England and is heralded as a visionary for creating an alternative world to rival great works of fiction such as J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings."

For many fans, the release of the final book in 2007 was the end of Harry Potter, but others have clung to the movies as a way to keep Pottermania alive, and this Thursday's movie premiere will give loyalists a second chance to say goodbye.

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    Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, J.K. Rowling and the rest of the "Potter" cast gather in London to celebrate the eighth film and the end of a decade of work.

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    Daniel Radcliffe walks the red carpet at the "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" premiere at London's Trafalgar Square on Thursday, July 7. The actor has starred in all eight films since being cast at age 11. He recently revealed he's given up alcohol after abusing it while making the film series.

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  • Image: Actress Emma Watson arrives for the world premiere of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" in Trafalgar Square, in central London

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    Hermione Granger is all grown up. Emma Watson dazzled in a grey Oscar De La Renta ruffled gown at the world premiere. She's believed to be planning to study at Oxford University now that the film series is finished.

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    Rupert Grint -

    Rupert Grint played Ron Weasley, Harry and Hermione's pal, in the series. His large redheaded family also played an important role in the saga.

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    J.K. Rowling went from a single mother on welfare to one of the world's richest women thanks to authoring the Potter book series.

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    Helena Bonham Carter plays Bellatrix Lestrange, one of evil Voldemort's cohorts, in the films.

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    Alan Rickman plays Severus Snape in the series, a pivotal character whose motives may not always be what they seem.

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    Crowds fill Trafalgar Square in London hoping to see the "Potter" stars. Some waited for days in a downpour and with limited bathroom facilities to watch the events unfold.

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    Tom Felton -

    Tom Felton plays Draco Malfoy, Harry's school nemesis, in the films. He recently told the Daily Mail that the young cast members know they weren't chosen for acting skill, but because they resembled the characters Rowling created.

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    A fan holds up a placard playing off the famed World War II admonition "Keep Calm and Carry On."

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    Robbie Coltrane -

    Robbie Coltrane plays the gentle giant Hagrid, who helps Harry, Hermione and Ron while they're at Hogwarts.

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    James and Oliver Phelps -

    Twin actors James and Oliver Phelps play twins Fred and George Weasley in the film series. They're identical, but Oliver has a mole on the right side of his neck and James does not.

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    Natalia Tena plays Nymphadora Tonks in the films. Her character marries and has a son during the series.

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    Helen McCrory -

    Helen McCrory plays Narcissa Malfoy. She originally cast as Narcissa's sister, Bellatrix Lestrange, but due to pregnancy had to give that role to Helena Bonham Carter.

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    Bonnie Wright -

    Bonnie Wright plays the character most young female "Potter" readers envy most -- Ginny Weasley, who eventually weds Harry.

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    Harry Potter fans clutch books they're hoping to have autographed. Their faces are painted in scarlet and gold, the colors of Gryffindor, Harry's house at Hogwarts.

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    Clemence Poesy -

    Clemence Poesy plays Fleur Delacour, and in the film series, she weds Ron's brother, Bill.

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    Jamie Campbell Bower -

    Jamie Campbell Bower plays a young Gellert Grindelwald in the last two films. The actor also appears in another enormously popular film franchise, the "Twilight" series.

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    Warrick Davis and family -

    Warrick Davis poses with his family on the red carpet. He plays both Griphook and Flitwick in the series, and also worked as a casting agent to find additional little people to play goblins in the films. He also starred in "Willow," and plays an Ewok in the "Star Wars" series.

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    Evanna Lynch -

    Evanna Lynch plays Luna Lovegood, a loony Hogwarts student who plays an important role in the book.

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    Michael Gambon -

    Michael Gambon replaced the late Richard Harris as beloved Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore. Harris, who passed away in 2002 at age 72, took the role in the first two films, and Gambon played him in the remaining movies.

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"I'm just really excited to see the end of the series play out on the big screen and go out with the bang it deserves," said Paul Torres, 19, of Dallas, Texas, who said he had got chills seeing the trailer for "Deathly Hallows."

"It's kind of cool to be able to look back and say that I remember each book being released, each movie coming out. It was without a doubt a large part of my childhood."

Universal appeal

Martin Richardson, a professor at Durham University and one of the first in Britain to teach a Harry Potter college course, said it was unlikely that the series' sensational popularity would see an immediate drop-off after the final film.

Promises of a Harry Potter encyclopedia and interactive website, let alone Potter-themed events and a theme park in Florida, will sustain fans immersed in the wizard's world.

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    Kevin Kolczynski

    The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

    Thirteen years after the first Harry Potter book was published, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is finally open, offering real-life experiences for rabid fans.

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    The Hogwarts Express arrives in Hogsmeade Station at Universal Orlando Resort's Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As guests enter Hogsmeade, they are greeted by the iconic, smoke-billowing steam engine, made famous in the Harry Potter books and films for transporting students to a world of magic and wonder.

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    As guests pass through the arch into Hogsmeade at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, they can explore the cobbled streets of the highly themed environment, and will encounter iconic locations from the Harry Potter books and films, like Ollivanders and the majestic Hogwarts castle.

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    Visitors stroll the streets of Hogsmeade in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando theme park. The attraction opens to general admission ticket holders on June 18.

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    Members of the Hogwarts Choir sing for guests. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter features multiple themed attractions, shops and a restaurant.

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    A clerk, right, at Ollivander's Wand Shop, helps visitors pick out a magic wand. Park guests will have plenty of opportunities to shop for wands, broomstics, scarves and more.

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    Mounted on the wall of the Hog's Head pub is the hog's head, which will come alive and puff its jowls at visitors. Adjacent to the Three Broomsticks, the Hog's Head pub is where guests can enjoy a cold Butterbeer, pumpkin juice and other beverages.

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    The entrance to Hogwarts Castle is seen at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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    Hogwarts Castle is seen at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Construction of the park was overseen by the production manager from the Harry Potter movies.

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    The office of headmaster Albus Dumbledore is intricately displayed at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling, author of the Potter books, is a stickler for details, and Universal worked hard to get her OK on the park's attractions.

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    Guests will pass by the regal Griffin statue on their way to Dumbledore's office.

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    Just like the Harry Potter films, portraits line the walls of Hogwarts castle, the home of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. When passing through the Portrait gallery, guests will encounter several magical talking portraits created exclusively for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, including the four Hogwarts founders.

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    An authentic replica from the Harry Potter films, guests will pass by Hagrid's hut on their way to the Flight of the Hippogriff family-friendly roller coaster. Just before they board, Hagrid instructs guests on how to properly approach and fly on a Hippogriff.

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"'Pottermania' will not end in the foreseeable future: It is too deeply ingrained in the collective psyche of what has been dubbed 'The Harry Potter Generation'," Richardson said.

As an example of the books' influence, Richardson noted that about a quarter of the students on his course admitted that they were disappointed on their 11th birthdays when they didn't receive letters of acceptance to Hogwarts, the magical school of witchcraft and wizardry, as characters in the books do.

"What is understandably lost to adults is the most gloriously subversive concept at the heart of the Harry Potter series — the notion that there might just be a magical world out there that we Muggles cannot see," he said.

For academics, the story's worldwide popularity — the books have been translated into more than 60 languages, from Tibetan to Khmer — stems from the universal themes woven into the plot.

"When reading or watching the characters in the Potterverse, we are also reading about and watching ourselves — and in particular our relationships, our sense of duty and our identity," said Richardson.

"These timeless themes cross all cultural and national divides."

There is also a moral dimension, which gives the books the sense of offering guiding principles for young readers, simple messages anyone can identify with, said Kern, the professor at Lawrence University. These lessons aren't wasted on fans, who can point to the ways the story has altered their lives.

Andrea Lolita Cardenas, a 19-year-old from Los Angeles, chose her degree because of what she learnt from Potter.

"I'm a criminal justice administration major in part because of Harry Potter; the battle between 'good' and 'evil' plays out every day," she said.

Wizardry on the Web

Rowling's novels and the subsequent movie hype triggered some of the first fan sites in the late '90s, and the online fan base has exploded since, encouraging fan-written fiction based on the characters, discussion forums and the news.

The websites have played a major role in keeping Pottermania alive, Kern said, noting that "never before have book fans had the opportunity to communicate with one another as quickly and extensively about matters related to their interests.

"The phenomenon we call Harry Potter grew out of this ability to communicate almost instantaneously through the Internet — both among fans and between fans and author."

Rowling has unveiled a new website called Pottermore, which will develop characters and storylines from the books and allow readers to interact with and navigate her magical world.

There are around 18,000 words of new material in the form of background on characters' lives and the history of the houses at Hogwarts school, for example. The free site opens for registration on July 31, the fictional Harry Potter's birthday.

Despite Pottermore, traditional fan sites and fan activities will likely see a decline, but that doesn't mean Potter will disappear from the Web, said the webmaster for Potterish, the Brazilian fan site Rowling has named one of her favorites.

"The fact is that Potterish is like a son for our team and would be a huge loss of content if we shut it down," said Daniel Mahlmann, 24, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Kern predicts that while music genre Wizard Wrock, themed parties and big releases will fade, the Internet will provide a forum for web-based subcultures, and the Harry Potter love will be passed on from one generation to the next.

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