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We're off to see the wizards..

PUBLISHED: 12:59 09 July 2009 | UPDATED: 16:55 25 August 2010

POTTER FAN: Flavien Puel from Bexley

POTTER FAN: Flavien Puel from Bexley

HARRY Potter mania swept across the country this week as fans predicted a box office smash for the sixth film in the series. On Tuesday thousands of fans from across south-east London and north Kent packed Leicester Square for the long-awaited premiere o

Rob Knox who plays Marcus Belby

HARRY Potter mania swept across the country this week as fans predicted a box office smash for the sixth film in the series.

On Tuesday thousands of fans from across south-east London and north Kent packed Leicester Square for the long-awaited premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Scheduled for release last November, it was put back until this month as Warner Brothers pitched for a summer blockbuster.

Days before the premiere the parents and friends of tragic Bexley actor Rob Knox, who was knifed to death outside the Metro bar, Sidcup, attended a private screening. The teen, who plays Marcus Belby in the film, was honoured by co-stars including Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Kent's Michael Gambon (Dumbledore) who wore white wristbands and ribbons in memory of their dead co-star at the launch night.

FAN FRENZY: Potter teens line up to cheer on the stars.

Friends from Bexleyheath Georgia Nee, 16, and Chloe Smith, 16, braved the stormy conditions and waited for five hours to catch a glimpse of the stars and pay tribute to Rob Knox.

Miss Nee said: "I'm in France next week so I can't see the film in the cinema which is terrible because I have always been there the day it's been released.

"I had to come here today to get a Harry Potter fix before I went away.

"Without doubt it will be the biggest film this year because there are always the biggest and best. You don't get hundreds of people standing for hours to see the stars of any other movie."

Both girls live in the same borough as Mr Knox and Miss Smith hopes the film will highlight his and other knife crime victims' heart-rending stories.

She said: "The Marcus Belby (Rob Knox) story is really sad, it's only a mile or so away from my home and that made it hit home when it happened.

"It's good that he will be remembered because of this film but at the same time it happens a lot and it seems that some victims are just forgotten about."

The duo queued amongst thousands of screaming fans as in true Harry Potter fashion lightening bolts struck across central London.

Flavien Puel, a 19-year-old French student who has recently moved to Griffin Road, Plumstead, said it easy for people his age to relate to JK Rowling's character.

Although he has enjoyed his short stay in London he revealed that the world premiere had been one of his most exciting experiences.

He said: "I was a huge fan as soon as I read the first chapter of the first book, that hasn't really changed - it is because we grew up with him.

"I'm from France and I've only lived in Plumstead for just over a month, London is a great city but this is one of the most exciting things I have seen during my time here.

"The Harry Potter films are very entertaining. It will be massive although the books are much better. You can go in to so much more detail in a book and that just can't be done in a film."

Among the fans was Mary-Ann Russon, 24, from Higham, whose best friend at Bournemouth University made a documentary about tragic Rob Knox.

She said: "Rob Knox was from my friend's (Kelly Smule) town and it's great to see the actors and actresses wearing white ribbons in his honour.

"His memory will live on through this film. Knife crime is such a terrible thing and hopefully people will take notice from the Rob Knox story."

Among the young stars on the red carpet was veteran actor Sir Michael Gambon who frequently joked with his young co-stars and paid tribute to their youthful energy.

He said: "It's great being surrounded by young actors because I can learn a lot from their simplicity.

"That's a compliment. My acting is usually way over the top and deeply complicated and mired in subtext. Does that make sense?"

The opening screening for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on July 15 at the O2 Vue cinema, Greenwich, is already a sell-out.

Manager Sam Clegg said: "The buzz around the release on any big film is always amazing, but with Harry Potter there is that something extra.

"Since we started showing trailers a few months ago the excitement has been mounting, and now with only a week to go, its set to explode."

"We're all expecting it to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the year, it's fantastic to see a British film doing so well."

He said they are set to eclipse advance bookings for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which was over 120,000 across all Vue Cinemas.

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