Harry Potter fans wait outside theater for midnight showing. Photo Credit: Brett Ekblad

Since the first book in the Harry Potter series arrived on shelves in 1998, the HP empire has grown astronomically; even bordering on being a generational symbol.

The highly anticipated first half of the seventh and final installment of HP, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, arrived in theaters and IMAX on Nov. 19 to a global crowd of diehard fans.

An article in The New York Times shows that 25% of the viewers for HP7 were in the 18-34 year old demographic and sites that only 10 percent of the audience for the first movie was in that same age group. This is a testament to a generation that has grown up with HP, who started to watching the movies in their tweens and are now well into their late teens and early to mid-twenties, and still obsessed.

The midnight showings of HP7 both in theaters and IMAX sold out almost as soon as the tickets were put on sale. The movie grossed $330 million internationally its first weekend ($125.1 million in North America), easily pushing the movie to the number one box office spot. $16.6 million of the international gross was contributed by IMAX ticket sales.

This newest movie has been aggressively marketed for the past year, adding to the anticipation that HP fanatics were already feeling as soon as they finished watching the sixth movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince nearly a year and a half ago. These fans were not disappointed; HP7 has definite improvement in the acting of Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) and the story is an exciting ride that is completely different from any of the others.

As Harry, Ron and Hermione have grown as the series has progressed, so have Radcliffe, Grint and Watson. Not only in age and size, but also in their skills as actors. In this newest installment, all three have grown into mature actors, free of awkward acting moments that perforated the first few movies and persisted to some extent up until now.

HP7 takes a different route than its predecessors from the very beginning. The wizard civil war is heating up and without Dumbledore, the Order of the Phoenix is weakened and diminished to hiding out in the country as they contemplate their next move.

Meanwhile, Harry finds himself in a position that keeps him from returning to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in favor of a far flung search for Voldemort’s horcruxes. The horcruxes are essential to the fight against Voldemort, which are pieces of his soul stored in various objects that have some sort of significance to him. As long as he has horcruxes, he cannot effectively be killed.

Being the great friends that they are, Hermione and Ron join Harry in his journey. As usual, it’s not all fun and games with the dynamic trio. Tensions run high as the group travels in hiding up and down the English countryside seeking horcruxes to no avail. Eventually it becomes apparent that the three are not only responsible for finding Voldemort’s horcruxes, but also the Deathly Hallows.

Although HP7’s plot is slower moving than previous HP movies’, it is definitely the truest to the book of all the movies, most likely because J.K. Rowling was a producer on this movie, unlike all the previous HP films. The movie sets the ground work for part two, which is sure to be action packed. This seventh movie leads right up to the point where the viewer says, “It can’t be over yet.” Of course, this is a good strategy by Warner Bros to get people back to the theaters for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, opening July 15, 2011.

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