Even More Wizarding Worlds: Harry’s Coming to Osaka, Japan!

Welcome back! HogwartsProfessor and our sister-site TheHogsHead went down yesterday for technical reasons I do not understand and cannot explain — but a very big “Thank you!” to the folks behind the curtain that brought us back up so promptly. Today’s news: Harry Potter in Japan!

I confess to having been surprised when Universal Studios announced that they were going to be opening a Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Hollywood; dinosaur that I am, I imagined that landmarks were associated with one place, something like Mt. Rushmore and the Dakotas and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. You traveled to that place to see the landmark.

Not, apparently, when the landmark can be reproduced fairly easily (albeit with hundreds of millions of dollars) and make a lot of money (as in many more millions of dollars annually). Now we learn that not only will North America be bracketed by Wizarding World parks with rides in Florida and California but the Pacific Ocean will be as well with Universal Studios Harry Potter destinations on the ‘west’ (far east?) coast in Japan and in Hollywood on the east coast. Read all about the new Japanese park in the L.A. Times. (Hat tip, James!)

And soon the Wizarding Worlds will staddle the whole Muggle globe as well, with Universal Studios theme parks in “South Korea, Dubai, and Russia.” The push-for-parks seems to be tied to a drop in conventional toy and accessory sales for Warner Brothers’ marketing division:

The Osaka destination — expected to begin construction in the next few weeks with a planned opening in late 2014 and an expected cost of about $500 million — brings Hogwarts Castle and rides including Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey to the boy wizard’s biggest market outside of the United States.

The eight Potter movies grossed nearly $900 million in Japan — more even than in his home country of Britain. Products including magic wand chopsticks have made the Harry Potter brand Japan’s most successful movie-based consumer products line of the last decade.

But the book and film series are both complete, and fans who have grown into their 20s and 30s are buying fewer toys. Harry Potter is in need of a business transformation. The answer from Warner Bros. — which owns the licensing rights to author J.K. Rowling’s books — is theme parks. Potter has driven a stunning 68% increase in attendance at Universal Orlando and spurred visitors to spend millions on butterbeer during their visits and paraphernalia on their way out.

“This type of immersion is what the fans crave more than buying traditional merchandise,” said Warner Bros. Consumer Products President Brad Globe. “Our strategy is focused on theme parks because it’s a different experience. They’ve read the books and seen the movies, but now they can enter the world.”

Despite the sluggish world economy, theme park owners have been investing and expanding in recent years. Market leader Walt Disney Co. is spending $4.5 billion to build a new park in Shanghai, $1 billion to upgrade Anaheim’s California Adventure Park, and $500 million on a new attraction in Orlando based on James Cameron’s hit film “Avatar.”

Universal, meanwhile, has a major expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando planned in addition to the version in Los Angeles. And new Universal-branded parks are in the works in South Korea, Dubai and Russia.

Anyone want to argue with the idea that theme park “experience” is perhaps the ultimate diminution, even the erasure of the imaginative and edifying experience to be had inside the novels? The movies’ hijacking is bad enough but I look forward to reading the explanations of how this kind of profit-taking serves serious readers well. Unless, of course, it serves as base camp for those serious readers to gather for discussion of the novels (see you at Ascendio 2012!).

Two HogPro administrative notes: (1) I have to suspend ‘Beatrice Prior Week’ until I return from Scotland the week after next because of preparations for that travel and for my talk at St. Andrew’s. (2) Prof. Baird-Hardy, having turned in her Muggle students’ O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. marks for the year, will be leading the cavalcade of post-ers here. Stay tuned for Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, and maybe even some Narniad or Divergent serious reader discussions!

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