07.15.11

The ‘Harry Potter’ Meltdown

Cursed by Voldemort? A midnight showing of the last Harry Potter installment went up in smoke after the film melted. Robert Verger talks to disappointed Muggles about missing the finale.

An event from the world of Muggles conspired against the forces of good at a midnight show of the final Harry Potter movie early Friday morning in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, as the film reel melted in the projector about an hour into the show, ending the screening.

“The movie’s tremendous. The first half is incredible. It’s better than anything we’ve seen so far,” said Judd Harner, 45, who went to the theater with his wife and three children.

But at a crucial moment in the film, when Hogwarts professors were in the process of using their wands to create a force field to protect the school, the film caught in the projector and began to melt. “It felt like Voldemort actually stopped the film,” Harner added.

Harner’s 11-year-old daughter, Olivia, said she had read the final Harry Potter book 24 times and was excited to see the film. “When the movie started burning,” she said, “it looked like the Death Eaters were trying to break the force field or something—and then it turned out, it took everyone like five seconds [to realize] that it was not the Death Eaters, it was the film.”

Olivia was there with friends. “I was definitely annoyed because the first half of the seventh movie was already a cliffhanger, and it turns out that the second half we just have to wait again, which is another cliffhanger,” she said. “So I guess I got a little angry, but not that much.”

What was remarkable is that the kids did not actually revolt. Some sort of laughed.

Ellin Baumel, a film producer, was also at the aborted screening, along with her 10-year-old daughter, Claire, who’s friends with Olivia Harner. Some minutes after the movie stopped, Baumel, who was sitting near the theater’s exit, saw two young staff members come in. “I heard them as they come in,” she said, “and they sort of heard the volume rising in the theater, and one was saying to the other, ‘What, you’re not leaving me in here alone, I’m not doing it,’ and then they leave,” Baumel said.

It started to get louder in the theater. Baumel said she went out and found the two staffers, telling them, “I think you’ve run out of time, you better make that announcement like, now.” A staffer told the audience that the film would not be continuing. “They handled the crowd management, I have to say, pretty well overall,” Baumel added.

Looking back, Judd Harner said, “What was remarkable is that the kids did not actually revolt. Some sort of laughed.”

A manager at the Clearview movie theater said that film melting in the projector “doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens.” She referred questions to the corporate office, which provided a statement: “Regrettably, there was a technical glitch during this particular showing of Harry Potter, and all of our guests were provided with refunds and free return passes. All screens of the film are currently up and running, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

For Olivia Harner’s 11-year-old brother, Alex, the feeling Thursday night was annoyance.

“It’s almost like 1 o’clock in the morning, and I’m really tired,” he said. “I just want to see the end of it. I’ve seen all the movies, I’ve read all the books, I’ve heard all the tapes, so I just really wanted to finish it.”

Judd Harner said the family will try to see the film again Saturday night at the same cinema, but this time in 3-D.