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Harry Potter fans worldwide eagerly await midnight premiere

By Chelsea Bailey, CNN
Fans in San Diego dress up to watch the last of the Harry Potter movies.
Fans in San Diego dress up to watch the last of the Harry Potter movies.
  • Harry Potter film franchise ends after more than a decade
  • "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" has grossed $25 million before the premiere
  • Fans around the world cue to watch Potter challenge the Dark Lord
  • Fan: "It's definitely ingrained itself into the childhoods of many generations"

(CNN) -- It's an event more than a decade in the making -- after years growing alongside "The Boy Who Lived," Harry Potter fans worldwide will clamber into theaters at midnight Thursday to behold the final battle between their hero and the Dark Lord Voldemort.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" will mark the end of the book series and film franchise that has enamored a generation for more than 12 years.

The film's stars -- Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint -- grew up on the big screen. And though they are no longer budding wizards with broken glasses, bushy hair and dirty noses, the fans take comfort in knowing Potter will never be gone, not as long as those remain are loyal to him.

The final installment has already grossed $25 million from advanced ticket sales, largely in part to people including 18-year-old Victoria Thomas who camped outside a Petaluma, California, theater with her friends, starting noon Wednesday.

They were the first to set up camp in a tent city worthy of the fields at the Quidditch World Cup. As of Thursday afternoon, the line wrapped around the block.

Though car horns and motorcycles prevented the group from getting much sleep, Thomas said it was unquestionably worth it.

"I got three days off from work to come to the premiere and we're the first people in line," Thomas said. "We have a tent and lawn chairs and we're just listening to music and reading the books. We're really excited."

Author J.K. Rowling's books have captivated a generation and inspired everything from a multi-billion-dollar film franchise to a theme park in Orlando, Florida. Though tears will be shed and lives will be lost on screen, Radcliffe told CNN's Larry King this installment is the best one yet.

"I think in this film we find the best between the emotional side of the films and the action-packed adventure, exciting side. I think we've never gotten the balance so right before," Radcliffe said.

For many, Friday's premiere will not only mark the end of the movies, but the end of their childhood.

In London, an American student pulled on a "Undesirable #1" T-shirt and paced in his flat, eagerly counting down the hours until the premiere of the movie.

Jesse Vineyard, 21, said the final Potter premiere factored his decision to study abroad this summer.

"It's been such a big part of my childhood. I've grown up with Harry Potter. I've been reading (the books) since they first came out," Vineyard said. "It's definitely ingrained itself into the childhoods of many generations."

He added, like Harry, he's realizes it's time to make his way in the world.

"I feel like it's finally my childhood coming to an end and I'm no longer innocent and naive ... I have to grow up," Vineyard said.

Vineyard said he'll be attending the midnight premiere at the Leicester Square Theatre, where Potter stars screened the movie last Thursday. Then "to close the whole experience, I'm going to go to King's Cross Station and take a picture with the cart they have going through a barrier labeled Platform 9 3/4," Vineyard said, adding that the experience will be bittersweet.

In North Carolina, 19-year-old Nicole Swofford and her sisters went costume shopping in preparation for the premiere. Swafford began reading the Potter series secretly in the second grade. At the time, her parents wouldn't allow her to read the books because like many, they initially took issue with the themes of witchcraft and the challenges her parents believed the books posed to Christianity.

But Swofford said the books were simply an escape -- a chance for her to forget about her troubles and immerse herself in Rowling's world where suits of armor sing Christmas carols and centaurs teach astronomy.

"You can be sucked into this world of magic and forget about everything else for a little while," she said. "It unlocks your imagination."

Over time Potter became something Swofford could share with her whole family. The whole family is going together in costume to the midnight premiere.

Ultimately, Swofford said it's J.K. Rowling's message that keeps her turning the pages and rewinding the films.

"The running theme of the whole series is that love is more powerful and stronger than hate and that in the end love is the thing that's going to save you," Swofford said.

"If you have people that are with you, like Harry has Ron and Hermione, and you just surround yourself with love, then you're not alone and you're going to make it, no matter what."

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" premieres worldwide midnight Thursday.