FilmScene brings the wizardly world of Harry Potter back to the big screen this summer

Harry Potter Summer

FilmScene — starts Thursday, June 8 at 10 a.m.

‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ kicks off FilmScene’s Harry Potter Summer. — Video still

There are three unmistakable features to Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe’s claim to fame: wire-thin, round-framed glasses; a lightning bolt scar on his forehead; and thick brown hair that delicately balances equal proportions unkempt and primped — even in the most life-threatening pinches. Oh, and that he has to save the world from the malevolent armies of He Who Must Not Be Named.

Starting this week with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, FilmScene will be showing the eight movies in the Potter chronology in succession every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. throughout the summer, as part of “The Picture Show” family and children’s series. (This is a change from last year’s Thursday, Friday, Saturday schedule.) The summer series (now in its third full year) is presented by MidWestOne Bank. Every showing will be on the big screen and free for children age 12 and under, $5 for adults.

“In this City of Lit, we begin with a community of readers, many of whom were introduced to the world of Potter through the books,” says Andrew Sherburne, an executive director of FilmScene. “So the series is a touchpoint for multiple generations now. Plus, there are so many great lessons in the book about friendship, learning, strength, tolerance and bravery. And, of course, the films are alive with that magical sense of wonder and possibility, that kids know intuitively and parents need to be reminded of.”

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The story follows Harry Potter, orphaned as an infant, raised under a staircase and treated like a servant by his aunt and uncle. His parents were killed by Lord Voldemort, who vanished afterwards, with Harry narrowly escaping through what appeared to be a fluke. In the first book and film, on his eleventh birthday, Harry is taken by a friend of his parents, Hagrid, to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry — a seven-year institution that grooms children with magic coursing through their blood (something that must be kept secret from those in the rest of the world, and exist beneath their consciousness).

At Hogwarts, everyone knows the name Harry Potter (“the boy who lived”). Harry gets a mixed reception at Hogwarts from his peers and professors — he makes friends and rivals, through education, sports and, eventually, romance. During what should’ve been a normal coming-of-age at Hogwarts, it’s revealed to Harry that Voldemort had returned; the fate of the world depends on stopping the person who killed his parents. As he becomes more adept in his studies of sorcery, Harry turns to tackle Voldemort and his minions head-on. Pretty epic stuff for a kid who is once snidely dismissed as “mediocre to the last degree” by his potions master, Severus Snape.

J.K. Rowling’s original stories first hit print in the United Kingdom in 1997 with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the name changed a year later to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, when it shipped across the Atlantic). Much lore has developed surrounding the initial writing of her debut, with Rowling reportedly receiving dozens of rejections from publishing houses. The story was eventually picked up — and in 2001 was first translated to film.

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Rowling’s Austenian writing, paired with a fantastical imagination, has put her chronicle of Harry Potter among literary heavyweights. Each title from her seven-part series rank in the top 10 most-selling books of all time in the U.K. The Harry Potter film series, over eight movies, has grossed approximately $6.5 billion.

This is the first time FilmScene has screened the Harry Potter series. Sherburne and the others at FilmScene thought this was the perfect time and film to supplement the movie experience with tactile activities. He says, “it seemed like the perfect opportunity to have some fun with games, crafts and special guests — starting with two owls from the Iowa Raptor Project.” Whiskers and Wannago will be on hand, with their handlers, for the series kick-off.

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