European edition, Saturday, July 21, 2007

RAF LAKENHEATH, England — A weekend of Harry Potter pandemonium kicked off here with a noon screening Friday of the latest film in the series.

Scores of Potter aficionados young and old converged on the RAF Lakenheath movie theater to catch the first on-base showing of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” 12 hours before the final book in the anthology went on sale.

Staff Sgt. Joseph Bullington and his wife, Candace, brought daughters Brianna, 4, and Lory, 3, to the theater after a week of boy wizard re-education.

“We watched all the other movies this week to get ready for this one,” Candace Bullington said moments before the lights darkened inside the theater. “And I reread all the books, too. You have to be caught up.”

Joseph Bullington said the family will buy the newest book soon. Until then, they’re trying to avoid all the pre-sale hysteria, including rumors of Harry’s demise.

“I just don’t look at the news because I know there’s going to be something I don’t want to see,” he said.

His wife was equally circumspect.

“I’ve heard rumors, but I’m not believing anything until I read it for myself,” she said.

A group of teenagers seated not far from the Bullington family said they were excited about the fifth Harry Potter film despite already reading the book.

“Because a movie is always different from the book,” said 13-year-old Savannah Bissey. “They never make it the same.”

Savannah’s sister, 16-year-old Ali Bissey, described herself as the “reader” of the family and said sharing adolescence with Harry has drawn her closer to author J.K. Rowling’s signature character.

“He’s our age, but in a different world,” she said.

Among the places where the movie also opened this week were Heidelberg, Kaiserslautern, Stuttgart and Wiesbaden in Germany; and Sigonella and Vicenza, Italy.

Army and Air Force Exchange Service bookstores across Europe were hosting late-night Harry Potter-inspired parties to usher in the midnight release of the final book in the Harry Potter story.

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