LONDON (Reuters) - Hundreds of Harry Potter fans queued patiently on Wednesday to catch a glimpse of their on-screen heroes at Thursday's world premiere of the eighth and final film in the record-breaking cinema franchise.
A small number of hard-core devotees of the boy wizard stories created by British author J.K. Rowling have been camping in London's Trafalgar Square since Monday to get a front row view.
The enthusiasm sums up how Rowling's seven novels, and the eight Warner Bros movies based on them, have captured the imagination of millions of young fans around the world.
"I have grown up in the Harry Potter generation, it's a limbo state after this," said Rhyss Bowen Jones, 18, who travelled from Wales to queue for a wristband for the premiere of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2."
Lucy Nee, also 18, added: "I can't remember a time when there hasn't been a book or film to look forward to. It's a nice coincidence that Harry finishes school at the same time as me, it feels like we've grown up together."
The new film hits British and U.S. theatres on July 15, and is the first Harry Potter movie to be released in 3D.
The seven films released so far have earned more than $6 billion at the global box office, building on the success of the books which have sold over 400 million copies worldwide.
"As soon as I heard people were setting up camp I rushed down from Kent" said Yasmin, 21, who has been staying at the central London landmark since Monday.
Some fans were dressed in full wizarding robes and hats, while others read Rowling's novels as they waited for the big night.
Emily Yousaman and Emily Davis, both 16, spent four weeks on their collection of humorous signs, including one reading "Accio Rupert Grint" -- a reference to the fictional summoning charm used in the Potter universe.
Actor Grint (22) plays Ron Weasley, one of three principal characters, and, like his two co-stars, he is a household name in Britain and a multi-millionaire thanks to the commercial success of the films.
Daniel Radcliffe (21) plays Harry and Emma Watson (21) Hermione.
All three will be on the red carpet in Trafalgar Square on Thursday evening to greet screaming fans and give the franchise a star-studded send off.
For many followers, "Pottermania" has meant more than just a teenage crush or fleeting passion for the magical world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
"Harry Potter got me through secondary school, I made new friends through it," said 22-year-old Niamh, who was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Danaholics Anonymous" in honor of Radcliffe.
Rhys, 18, commented: "We've grown up in the Harry Potter generation -- I read the first book when I was five so now it's weird that it's coming to an end ... like the end of childhood."
Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato