In movies today, you're either Harry Potter or you're broke. Lavish film premieres — like the fake wedding with a cake and slutty bridesmaids for Wedding Crashers, or the entire pier they set up with fake jungles and monkeys for Peter Jackson's King Kong — have given way to a depressing parade of meats on sticks and liquor so cheap one longs for a PBR. So it was with great delight that we discovered last Thursday night that the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince folks have chosen to ride out the recession by ignoring it entirely.
The New York premiere was typical Ziegfeld Theatre madness. Legions of screaming fans packed 53rd Street. Rupert Grint showed up, chipper and non-contagious after his bout of swine flu. Emma Watson's underwear stayed completely out of sight. And Daniel Radcliffe gave the entire red carpet a lesson in charm.
But it was after the movie that our minds were truly blown. Outside the theater, waiting to take us to the party at the American Museum of Natural History, were double-decker buses. (Ours took a circuitous route through the Upper West Side and several passengers were thwacked in the head by low-hanging branches — all part of the charm!) The party was at the Museum's Powerhouse, an old power station, and a smoke-machine-created mist greeted us at the entrance, as did waiters bearing a "Polyjuice" cocktail — a mixture of vodka, watermelon, and (we're guessing) dry ice — that bubbled and gurgled as if in a cauldron.
Inside, there was what looked like a large model of the Hogwarts Express — complete with functional steam pipe — but was actually a five-layer chocolate cake (see photo). The party venue had been designed to mimic Fred and George Weasley's joke shop, Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, with shelves filled with treats like Screaming Yo-Yos, Anti-Gravity Hats, and jars of "U-No Poo: The Constipation Sensation." Guests were invited to raid the boxes (mostly containing candy and small toys) as soon as a mandatory viewing hour had passed.
In the corner, a palm-reading psychic named Tanya told vague fortunes (our hand was filled with "chaos"). Across the room was a sundae bar and a photo booth where guests could dress up in Hogwarts robes and play around with brooms.
Outside were stations for playing Harry Potter video games and making your own music video. The movie's Quiddich match was projected on the glass wall of the Rose Center, with a giant fake Quiddich field set up on the lawn below. As we left the party, we spied dozens of kids (and more than a few adults) running around, arms loaded with chocolate wands and marshmallow eyeballs. "This is the best party that has ever existed in the world!" our 31-year-old friend exclaimed. Seems like money well spent.