Puddings were aflame and champagne flowing Thursday evening when Warner Bros. Studio Tour London opened the doors to Hogwarts for a select number of fans who paid $350 (£230) to have Christmas Dinner in the Great Hall.
The studio in Leavesden on the outskirts of London is home to sets from all the Harry Potter films—and is currently the set for the Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. J.K. Rowling herself was on set earlier that day.
In the studio’s lobby, guests were greeted by a snowcapped Christmas tree and waiters offering trays of canapés. Many fans had dressed up specially for the occasion, in Hogwarts robes, Prefect pins, skirts made of pages of the Daily Prophet and others in gowns and tuxedos.
For some, it was worth every bit of their Gringotts savings. Elspeth Renfrew, 27, balked at the price, but was thrilled that her twin sister Janet bought tickets for the two of them. “We’ve grown up with Harry Potter,” Elspeth says. “And we were always the same age as him so we feel like we went to Hogwarts with him.”
Janet flew in from Aberdeen, Scotland just for the event. She says she’s recently adapted more of a carpe diem attitude since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few months ago, and felt the Christmas Dinner was too exciting an opportunity to pass up.
The fans took their champagne glasses into a reception area where they watched clips of producers discussing turning J.K. Rowling’s much-loved books into a successful movie franchise. Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint also spoke on video about the studio tour, which includes the original set designs, costume pieces, special effects, makeup and more.
While studio tour visitors typically just walk through the Great Hall set before moving on, Thursday evening was quite different. The Hogwarts dining room was dressed for the festive season with the props from the first movie, including eight Christmas trees topped with flying witches. Flaming lanterns, wreaths and garlands lined the walls of the hall and the original set tables were decked out with cherry-studded hams, piles of roast potatoes and bowls of green peas.
The 200 guests sat at tables of ten as staff filled up wine glasses so quickly that it seemed as though they were enchanted. The dinner menu was as elaborate as the night itself, beginning with a first course of ham hock and broad bean terrine with pea puree and walnut bread or confit pear, stilton cheese, radicchio and watercress salad. The second course—served as masked Death Eaters entered the hall in clouds of smoke to take pictures with guests—was roast turkey stuffed with cranberry and sausage with cumin carrots, brussels sprouts, crispy potatoes and rich gravy or lasagne with courgette, mozzarella, basil and pepper.
Many at the event had been to the studio tour before—but this night had a touch of extra magic. Sophie Bowshall-Parkinson, a 27-year-old from Manchester, came to Leavesden for the fifth time with her boyfriend Jack Barmby, 24, who bought the tickets for her birthday. As guests were able to pick out a wand of their choice (including Harry Potter’s, Hermione Granger’s, Professor Dumbledore’s and Lord Voldemort), Sophie specially requested Fleur Delacour’s since she already has four other wands at home.
Dessert came later, after guests had wandered through the entire exhibit (wine glasses in hand). They could get a close-up view of how different kinds of snow were made for the films, see the Goblet of Fire alight with blue and red flames, and even take spell-casting lessons just in case the Death Eaters came back wanting more than just a selfie.
Set dressers had also transformed the film sets for the holidays, with the Gryffindor common room and the Weasley kitchen in The Burrow covered with Christmas decorations, oranges and streamers. Guests could walk over the Wooden Bridge of Hogwarts Castle as artificial snowflakes fluttered through the air, and take a stroll through the cobbled streets of Diagon Alley. The incredibly detailed Hogwarts Castle scale model – which took 80 model makers nearly seven months to complete – was also dusted with snow for the occasion.
At green screens, fans could pose in the Weasley’s flying car, hop on a broom and fly through London and take a ride on the Hogwarts Express. On Platform 9 3/4, guests could enjoy dessert bowls, including bread and butter pudding and chocolate mousse with shortbread.
And the night wouldn’t have been complete without its final course: A frosty glass of Butterbeer, topped with foamy whipped cream.
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