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Harry Potter mania hits Notre Dame

by Sam Stryker | Wednesday, November 17, 2010

With the Sorting Hat and butterbeer greeting students as they entered South Dining Hall and Hogwarts banners hanging from the ceiling, it seemed the only thing missing was Professor Snape leering at students from the Head Table.

Wizard mania has officially swept Notre Dame, with South Dining Hall holding a “Harry Potter Dinner” in honor of the penultimate installment in the film franchise, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One,” set to be released in theaters Thursday at midnight.

Sophomore Tommasina Domel said the additional décor in the dining hall only added to her belief of South Dining Hall resembling Hogwarts’ Great Hall.

“I think its always looked like the Great Hall, but with the House signs and butterbeer, I feel like I am at Hogwarts,” she said.

Freshman Jack Trunzo said he believes Harry Potter’s age throughout the books serves as a connection between current students and the series.

“It is funny that the movies are ending now just as I get to college and my childhood is seemingly over,” he said.

Domel also said the fact Harry’s age corresponds with the generation of current college students forges a connection that is particularly strong at the University of Notre Dame.

“I feel like this is the perfect time to be in college because we all grew up with Harry,” she said. “I think we have more of an appreciation than other schools because we have a nerdier student body.”

Domel said the magic of the dining experience would only continue on Thursday, as she was anticipating attending a midnight showing of “Deathly Hallows” with other residents of Badin Hall.

“I am going to a midnight showing. We’re going super early and we’re planning to do trivia while we wait,” she said. “Costumes are expected for those attending.”

Trunzo said he was planning on attending a midnight showing as well. He said anticipation for the new film is running high, even amongst friends from other universities.

“A lot of my friends are seeing it at midnight at other schools. The general excitement is a lot higher than it was in high school,” Trunzo said.

Trunzo said anticipation for the release is even spilling into the classrooms amongst his friends.

“My friend at Brown is in class with Emma Watson, [the actress who plays Hermione Granger,]'” he said. “This week when she answered a question correctly, someone shouted out ‘Ten points to Gryffindor!'”

Sophomore Patty Walsh said she knew tickets would sell fast, and it motivated her to buy tickets to the midnight premiere early.

“Around Halloween we heard people talking about Harry Potter, so we knew we needed to get tickets right away before they sold out,” she said. “We would have driven up to half an hour away to make the premiere.”

Local theatres have sold out multiple showings of the midnight release. The movie ticket website fandango.com listed the AMC Showplace 16 South Bend with four sold out midnight showings and Cinemark Movies 14 in Mishawaka with six sold out midnight showings.

The notion of South Dining Hall serving as inspiration for Hogwart’s Great Hall of the films has become an urban legend of sorts, often fueled by campus tour guides.

Junior and Administrative Assistant to Undergraduate Admissions Tim Gannatti said this rumor is just that, not based in any fact.

“I would say it’s a tall tale that is passed on through the years; I remember my tour guide saying the same thing,” he said. “I have said it to my tours. No one told us to say it, and I don’t believe that it’s in the tour guide manual.”  

The urban legend may be based in the Gothic architecture of the building. According to the Notre Dame Campus Tours website, South Dining Hall is modeled after a medieval Guild Hall.

The website said, “Today’s students find it reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts.”

South Dining Hall Manager Bill Krusniak says the Harry Potter dinner has been in the planning since early October.

“The students came up and asked with the new movie coming out, what are the chances of doing a dinner?” he said. “I ran it by the general manager, and we went from there.”

Krusniak said he went directly to the movies to provide accurate inspiration for the decorations and the menu.

“I rewatched the first movie because there were a lot of dining hall scenes. We’re trying our best to get the flavor of it, what they had during the meals,” he said. “The menu is based off of that, which tends to be everyday items. We’re trying to mimic the dessert items.”

Krusniak said he was expecting around 1,000 more students than usual to attend Wednesday’s dinner, based on a Harry Potter dinner held in April 2009. He said he doesn’t believe any other film franchise could inspire such a demand from students.

“I think how popular Harry Potter is, I don’t think many movie series could compete for campus wide acceptance,” Krusniak said.