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An Enchanting Launch for Harry Potter Video

9 May, 2002 By: Jessica Wolf

LONDON –No one magically disappeared through, or emerged from, the great brown stone walls of London's Kings Cross Train station at a makeshift platform 9 3/4 on the evening of May 8, but there was a certain magic in the air for the more than 600 Harry Potter fans and media gathered from around the world.

They were there at 8 p.m. London time when the great steaming red-and-black Hogwarts Express rolled into the station, loaded with a cargo of the first Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone DVDs to hit the country (or any country) as well as stars from the hit film and their families.

It was Warner Home Video's biggest release event ever, said Pamela Godfrey, VP of worldwide publicity.

With preorder sales for the $317 million-earning film's May 28 VHS and DVD release already breaking records, according to the studio, (the title streets in the United Kingdom May 11), it seems a given that the first “Harry Potter” movie will be a massive video hit with or without a massive launch party, But Godfrey said it was important for Warner to make a worldwide impression with this event.

“Of course we think that Harry Potter will be a very successful DVD,” Godfrey said. “But I think it was important to reinforce that this is a major new franchise for Warner. It's our first big family title.”

And there were plenty of families with children on hand Wednesday night, along with celebrities and 300 media representatives from 20 different countries. They waited at the partially closed down train terminal — magicians, artists and actors dressed in Wizards garb keeping everyone occupied. Paraphernalia from the movie, like Hogwarts house banners and pieces from the movie's giant chess game decorated the platform.

A Hogwarts-Worthy Gala

Children dressed as Hogwarts students passed out The Sorcerer's Stone posters, flags, stuffed owls and bags of Bertie Botts' Every Flavor Beans, interacting with the onlookers in character — and the crowd responded in kind.

“Are you coming on the train with us then?” one Hogwarts student queried a young boy. “No? Well maybe next year then.”

“It's amazing to think this is all for the DVD,” one woman in the crowd commented. “You would think this was for the next movie.”

Trainers with live snakes, owls and a dog similar to Hagrid's pet Fang, also helped keep the crowd entertained, and once the stars arrived the party began.

Fans and press rubbed shoulders with stars Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermoine Granger), Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore) and a host of other young actors that make up the student body of The Sorcerer's Stone and the in-production sequel, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

To the dismay of some female Harry Potter fans, the boy wizard himself was absent. Daniel Radcliffe filmed a video message apologizing for not being there and blaming his absence on filming and school exams.

The rest of the wizarding crew seemed to be just as excited and awestruck as their wide-eyed fans, which could owe, in part, to the fact that most are in the midst of their first rush of stardom thanks to Harry Potter.

At the exact moment the train rolled into the station, Warner's virtual owls officially took flight with the launch of the studio's 12-country Internet promotion, owlsightings.com. For weeks now, cryptic owlsightings.com e-mails have been teasing Internet users, but the official promotion went live during the event.

In a nearby large Hogwarts-like structure built for the event, kids and adults alike watched the video on small portable DVD players, and played interactive games in rooms lavishly decorated in Potter style, “I'm trying to get enough money to buy a wand,” declared 11-year-old Jacques Hanlon.

As the event wound down, partygoers seemed in no hurry to leave, lingering on the platform sipping champagne nibbling on pastries and sorting through their jam-packed goodie bags, wrapping Gryffindor-colored scarves around their necks, waving wands and riding broomsticks.

The idea of the evening was to make people feel like they were in the movie, or somehow a part of the magical Hogwarts world, Warner Home Video's Godfrey said. For kids and adults alike, she said she felt like they succeeded.

Richard Harris, who appears as Dumbledore, mingled among guests and press. “Every time I've done any press for this movie, the first thing people ask is what is it about the Harry Potter universe that has such an appeal?” Harris said. “My answer is I honestly don't know for sure. Do you?”

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