Tune in to CNN this Sunday night at 8 ET for the Larry King special "Harry Potter: The Final Chapter." King talks with the cast and brings you never-before-seen footage of the final Harry Potter film and more.
London (CNN) -- More than a decade of Harry Potter devotion reaches its climax for fans on Thursday with the premiere in London of the eighth and final movie in the record-breaking series.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2," the first of the franchise to be released in 3-D, opens in London to widespread anticipation.
It is the first red carpet premiere to be held in Trafalgar Square.
The first J.K. Rowling book featuring the boy wizard Harry Potter was published in the UK in 1997, with the first movie adaptation released four years later.
Since then, the seven books have sold more than 400 million copies worldwide, according to the British publisher Bloomsbury.
The multibillion-dollar eight-part big-screen adaptation -- the final book was so long that it was divided into two parts -- has become the most successful movie franchise of all time, its producers Warner Bros. said.
Thousands of fans waited in the London rain for hours -- or in some cases days -- in the hope of getting close to the stars.
"We go every year to the premieres, so we were definitely going to come for the last one," one fan said. "Last year, we got all their autographs, so this year, we want pictures."
Another said: "It's fun to come and hang out with all the fans, even if you can't get close to the stars."
The stars they were all hoping to catch a glimpse of are Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint.
They were all schoolchildren ages 9 to 11 when they were first cast in the lead roles and are now among Hollywood's hottest properties.
The film's tag line "It all ends here" will be most poignant to the three actors, but it is unlikely to describe their careers.
Radcliffe, 21, who plays Harry Potter, said: "It's the end of an era and it suddenly feels like we're moving past our adolescence, our childhoods."
Grint, who plays his sidekick Ron Weasley, said: "I found myself getting quite choked up at the end."
Watson, who completes the trio with Hermione Granger, said: "I started out when I was 9, and I'm now 21, and it's been everything. It's where I went to school, it's where I met my friends, it's where I learned everything I know."
The movie has already won over critics in its first reviews.
Reviewer Baz Bamigboye wrote in the Daily Mail newspaper: "It's hard to say goodbye to Harry Potter after a decade of watching him grow up on the big screen but, thankfully, he goes out with a wizard of a movie."
He added: "The film versions of J.K. Rowling's stories have enthralled me, and I watched them with child-like wonder."
"The final film chapter had me literally sitting on the edge of my seat at times."
Richard Godwin, of the London Evening Standard newspaper, described the film's technical team as its "real stars."
He wrote of the special effects: "This is the real magic, and perhaps our last authentic industry. The fruits of its labor will animate imaginations for years to come."
Philip Womack, in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, wrote: "This is monumental cinema, awash with gorgeous tones, and carrying an ultimate message that will resonate with every viewer, young or old: there is darkness in all of us, but we can overcome it."
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" goes on general release in Britain and the U.S. on July 15.
The premiere is being streamed live on EW.com starting at 4 p.m. London time (11 a.m. ET).