Josh Getlin and Martha Groves
Los Angeles Times
If ever there was a global party, this was it.
The lines began forming outside London and Paris bookstores early in the morning Friday -- hours before Los Angeles readers woke up -- and the scene was repeated across the United States, as Harry Potter fans gathered for midnight bashes to celebrate the release of J.K. Rowling's final installment in the blockbuster series, ``Harry Potter and the Death Hallows.''
In England, at one minute past midnight Saturday morning, Rowling began reading excerpts to a group of 1,000 invited children in London's 19th-century Natural History Museum, a suitable substitute for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
A mile down the road in Piccadilly, several thousand fans besieged Waterstones, the London bookshop that has become the focal point for sales of the book. Flourish and Blotts, where Harry bought all his school books, was never so crowded.
The fans came from all over, from Australia, Israel, Italy and Spain. Pottermania fans from Turin, Italy, appeared dressed as a Quidditch team. Some readers came from America.
``We're going to grab our copies and rush back and read and read all night, then get together and talk,'' said Rita Gill, 18, of Laguna Beach, Calif. Gill, dressed in wizard's robes, had been waiting since 6.30 a.m. Thursday.
She was joined by Bri Sanders of nearby San Clemente. The friends are sad the Potter saga is ending but, as Sanders aid, ``It's so exciting too.''
``Yeah, I'm sad but I think it's right it ends now, everything needs closure,'' philosophized Gill.
Their English Harry Potter friend, Tom Rutland from Kent ,15, felt a bit bereft. ``I've read the books since I started reading at 5,'' he said.
Although these parties have been a tradition since the fourth Harry Potter installment, sponsors predicted the number of this year's celebrations would top previous records.
The parties rocked on despite the events of recent days -- when pirated versions of the manuscript appeared on several Web sites, and 1,200 customers got copies in the mail from an online seller, three days before the release date.
Even though several newspapers broke the embargo by publishing reviews of the book- -- in some cases divulging key details of the carefully guarded plot -- few of those flocking to bookstores for the release night appeared to care.
In Southern California, Harry Potter-mania was in full swing: Customers at Book Soup were promised a free copy of the new book if they purchased a $100 gift card. Rock bands were scheduled to play at Vroman's in Pasadena and the festivities continued until 1 a.m. at Blue Chair Children's Books in Glendora, where customers signed up in advance to get the book and other Harry Potter-related products.
And partygoers filled the street outside the Manhattan offices of Scholastic, the U.S. publisher, as the minutes ticked away toward midnight. With the copies finally put on sale, some industry experts predicted that the demand for the last Harry Potter book would exceed sales of the previous book, which sold an estimated 6.9 million copies in the first 24 hours.
Now that's magic.
Times staff writers David Ulin and Andrew Hiltzik in Los Angeles and Janet Stobart in London contributed to this report. Getlin reported from New York.