For $25, visitors can visit imaginative Hogwarts classrooms and dormitories, watch the Hogwarts Express steam by, and pad through a mist-filled Forbidden Forest.
“The filmmakers were really generous with what they gave us, and as you can see we've got some incredible artifacts,” said Robin Stapley, the creative director of the exhibition, in a New York University newspaper.
The exhibit is interactive, all the better to draw Potterphiles into the magical, breathtakingly imaginative world J.K. Rowling first created more than a decade ago with the publication of “Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone,” the first novel in one of the biggest accidental sensations in publishing history. Visitors can try on the Hogwarts sorting hat, shoot Quaffles, pull mandrakes from their pots – the closest most fans can get to entering Harry Potter’s world.
But if there is any world that the visitors are entering, it is the world of the Harry Potter movies, rather than the books. More behind-the-scenes than between-the-pages, the exhibit might disappoint Potter purists with its overload of more than 200 props and sets and expensive gift shop gimmicks (including $45 replicas of Albus Dumbledore’s magic wand and $50 replicas of Gryffindor’s school tie) that lend a decidedly commercial air to the creative enterprise. Some reviewers have complained the exhibit is a brilliantly arranged marketing play by Warner Bros. Appropriately, the last Harry Potter movie, produced by Warner Bros., plays this summer, the final months of the exhibit’s US run.
Still, even skeptical fans have raved about an experience they call immersive, exquisitely attuned, saturated with details, and thoroughly imagined, as one visitor wrote in a New York Times review. And most Potter fans, who took to the movies like warlocks to Quiddich, won’t likely find fault with the inspired, if commercialized, exhibit.
If you want to see it, now’s the time. This is the last stop on the exhibit’s US run. Some one million visitors have seen it since it began its tour in 2009, stopping in Chicago, Boston, Toronto, and Seattle. The exhibit runs until September 5 in New York, before Harry’s show flies its broomstick to more distant shores.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.