REVIEW: Harry Potter & the Philosopher Stone, outdoor cinema screening, Alnwick Castle

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A special open-air screening of the first Harry Potter film was an enchanting evening despite wet and windy weather.

With its stunning scenery and medieval masonry, it is not surprising that Alnwick Castle has been home to a wide range of films and television programmes, recently playing host to the Grantham’s of Downton Abbey for its final season. Perhaps more famously still, the picturesque location was transformed into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the first two Harry Potter films in 2000.

The historic site became imbued with cinematic sorcery once again when Luna Cinema hosted a screening of The Philosopher’s Stone on the Outer Bailey grass where the bright-eyed boy wizard took his beginners broomstick flying lesson all of those years ago.

The highly-acclaimed pop-up cinema company hosts movie screenings in scenic locations across the country. Inevitably, then, the North-East evening event was a sell-out, attracting well over a thousand fans of J.K Rowling’s spell-binding series from across the region.

Audience members wore Gryffindor Scarves, house robes and, sensibly, wellies – with picnics, ponchos and plastic cups in tow. The wintery weather refused to dampen spirits however.

Enthusiasts of the franchise battled bitter wind and horizontal rain to see the film which begins with Harry discovering his magical abilities and subsequent enrolment at Hogwarts School. Hot drinks were readily available to warm up soggy Muggles, while the Castle’s gift shop and café remained open for food and souvenirs. Lighting was switched on to assist the entering and exiting cold, albeit content, crowd.

Despite the chilly climate, Hilton Doubletree hotel chain, the headline partners, were on hand with complimentary cookies and a photo booth tent, where a lucky pair could win the highly sought prize of watching the film from the comfort of a king-size bed with snacks and champagne. Games such as giant Jenga were placed on the lawn to warm up the freezing fans.

As the recognisable score leapt into a crescendo and the opening title flew across the screen, cheers echoed around the crenelated walls, becoming louder when shots of Alnwick appeared elsewhere in notable scenes such as the broomstick lesson on the Outer Bailey and entrance to the Wizarding School at Lion Arch.

Later, as Hagrid bid farewell to the home-bound first years on the Hogwarts Express in the closing scene, and the audience, too, prepared for home, the applause swelled. The atmosphere was simply magical.