Harry Potter Madrid magic enchants mostly expats

MADRID, Spain — On Nov. 19th, the boy with the lightning scar once again cast spells on muggle fans, topping weekend box office charts worldwide. Spain was no exception, but viewers said the new Harry Potter film is evidently more popular among the English-speaking countries.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I,” the seventh installment of one of the highest-grossing movie series in history, opened number one at the box office over the weekend of Nov. 19-21 in Spain, collecting €5.6 million (almost $7.5 million U.S.), according to Warner Brothers Pictures. That made “Harry Potter” the second best opening this year, following “Alice in Wonderland,” which generated €7.6 million when it was released in March.       

Without a midnight screening Thursday night as happened in many other countries, anxious Madrid fans had to wait until noon on Friday to view the latest adventures of the Hogwarts wizard boy.

“I really loved it; my sister and I are both huge fans and of course we’ve read all the books,” said 18-year-old Marta Sanchez, a student at the Complutense University of Madrid.

However, Sanchez acknowledged that the film is not as popular in Madrid as it is in the United States or England.

“It’s it very popular here, too, but tickets are very easy to get and I don’t think it’s a big deal like in the U.K. or the U.S. People don’t host Harry Potter themed parties, and very few dress up to go to the theater, except for maybe wearing a Harry Potter scarf.”

Cristiano Martinez, 22, agreed, adding that Harry Potter is more of a successful movie than a cultural phenomenon.

“My friends and I all love it because it’s really fun, but it’s obviously not as crazy here as it is in other countries,” said Martinez.

Indeed, the earlier showings of the movie on Friday were well attended, but tickets clerks said plenty of seats were available. It was also hard to spot excited fans outside of the theaters, except teenagers who had been dropped off by their parents for the largely teenager-targeted film.

However, as expected, more fans were lured into the cinema for late-night screenings, and several major Madrid theaters sold out, especially those showing the movie in its original English version.

Estefania Arias, 21, a student from St. Luis University who viewed the movie in English at Cine Ideal, said the theater was “filled with American students who are studying abroad.”

Robyn Varner, 22, from Boston University was one of them. “I’ve not missed a midnight “Harry Potter” premiere in a long time,” she said. “It is definitely more of an American thing. Although considering the time difference, I’m happy I still saw the movie at 9 a.m. Pacific time!”

Jessica Parr, 21, a student from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh who watched the movie in Cine Princesa in English, said the local audience wasn’t as enthusiastic about the film.

“I saw the first three [films] in Puerto Rico, the next two in London, and the 6th one in Scotland, but in Madrid, it’s not as crazy,” said Parr. “Only two people I saw dressed up and they were both Americans. I felt maybe the language barrier had something to do with it.”

Jose Carlos Vela, a Spanish cinema professor at Boston University in Madrid, offered a different reason for the film’s wider success in the U.K. and the U.S.

“You can say that the cultural models that ‘Harry Potter’ is set in are very Anglo-Saxon,” he said. “Hogwarts in a way is a typical British boarding school, identifiable with private schools in the U.K. and the U.S. And Harry’s physical appearance is also identifiable with middle-class, young British men. So perhaps it’s a matter of cultural models that produced this enthusiasm in the U.K. and the U.S.”