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Harry Pottermania grips Asia

Dozens gathered at a downtown bookstore in Hong Kong to get the new title and try on Harry Potter costumes provided by the store. Photograph: (AFP)

Agencies New Delhi, India Jul 31, 2016, 12.39 PM (IST)
Harry Potter magic hit Asia on Sunday, as aspiring witches and wizards crowded into bookstores to get their hands on the first copies of a new play that imagines the hero as an adult.

Launch parties for "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" were held hours after the play's premiere in London, setting the stage for a return of the series that has captivated readers and movie audiences worldwide.

Nearly 300 fans rushed through the doors of Kinokuniya bookstore on Singapore's Orchard Road at 2301 GMT on Saturday to become one of the first people in the world to see the new script.

Student Samantha Chua, 24, who along with her boyfriend was first in line, said she had been waiting outside the fourth-floor bookstore since 5 am local time .

"We were here so early that the mall wasn't even open yet so we had to come up through the cargo lifts," she told AFP, adding that it was "all worth it".

"I grew up reading the books and I have a special place for them on my shelves, but this will be my crowning glory," added Chua, who was wearing a Harry Potter-themed sweater.

Widely seen as the eighth Harry Potter instalment, the play is set 19 years after the end of the last book and features a grown-up Potter working at the Ministry of Magic.

Like many of his fans, Potter has now become an adult and has three children with his wife Ginny Weasley. He still has his trademark round-rimmed glasses and the scar on his head, a permanent reminder of his nemesis Lord Voldemort, but must now help his youngest son Albus confront the family's dark past.

The script's global kickoff was timed to coincide with its launch at midnight in London, after the play's world premiere at the Palace Theatre earlier in the evening. July 31 is also author JK Rowling's birthday.

In Bangkok, around 40 fans, many wielding wands and other wizarding paraphernalia, gathered outside a large downtown mall overnight. Sanpipat Huangsawat, 29, was first in line and had started queuing at 6:30 pm on Saturday evening.

He finally got his hand on the book some 11 hours later. "I feel very excited and it's great to be the first owner of this book in Thailand," he told AFP. Sheryans, 16, said he was not sure he'd ever get the chance to see another Harry Potter book launch. 

"I've been following the Harry Potter series since I was eight years old, and it's unbelievable that after nine years they're keeping it going," he told AFP in Bangkok.

Dozens gathered at a downtown bookstore in Hong Kong to get the new title and try on Harry Potter costumes provided by the store.

Ten-year-old Adele Leung, who came with her mother, was anxious to crack into the latest Potter tome. "I love Harry Potter and have read all of the last ones. I think I will read it in a few days," she said.

In India, fans began lining up outside shops which had opened early especially for the script's release. "It's been amazing to see 10-year-old fans and 70-year-old grandmothers turn up at our shops," Shilpi Agarwal, a spokeswoman for Om book shops, said in New Delhi.

"We've got an excellent response," she told AFP, adding that the store would be laying on Potter-themed activities throughout the day.

From Chennai to Gurgaon, customers queued up outside bookstores across the country mobbing the counters, publishers said. According to them, the consumer pre-orders for the book was the "highest ever for a hardback book in the history of Indian bookselling".

"The rave reactions from fans, post the London previews clearly indicate that this is classic Harry Potter back again. The consumer preorders for this book were the highest ever for a hardback book in the history of Indian bookselling. The trade orders are over 1.7 lakh copies and we were sold out last evening," says Thomas Abraham, Managing Director of Hachette India.

Rowling "done" with Harry

JK Rowling, has revealed that the new play 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' will be the final story for the wizard. Rowling' s comments came at the opening gala for the play in London on Saturday.

"No. No, he goes on a very big journey during these two plays and then, yeah, I think we're done. This is the next generation, you know. So, I'm thrilled to see it realised so beautifully but, no, Harry is done now," said Rowling.

The British writer also added that it was not a difficult decision to put her Potter creation onstage thanks to the vision that was sold to her by theatre producer, Sonia Friedman.

"Actually, no it wasn't. When Sonia came to meet me, her vision with what the show could be chimed perfectly with the material I had about the next generation, and I could see it would work perfectly. So, I never wanted to write another novel, but this will give the fans something special."

The play, based on an idea by British author and Potter creator J K Rowling, is set 19 years after "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". It features a grown-up Potter as an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic and father of three children who is grappling with his past. The play is already sold out through May 2017.

It opens ahead of the November movie version of Rowling's Potter spinoff book "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", and follows the opening in April of a second Harry Potter attraction within a theme park, this time at Universal Studios in Los Angeles.

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