Problem with “Monetizing Harry Potter”

Eric S. at MuggleNet is not happy about the merging of PotterMore and, the swallowing in effect of a supposedly Rowling-driven-and-controlled property by Warner Brothers to create another profit center for their Harry Potter merchandising franchise. He writes in Wrong Time to Further Monetize Brand:

Warner Bros. has some chutzpah. They already more or less run the world for Harry Potter fans, controlling all the rights, operating the theme parks, stage plays, both Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts film franchises, and meanwhile setting their crosshairs on what small, fan-formed community gatherings they can find. But this is not enough. Now, they’re going to incentivize Harry Potter fans paying them (I am presuming monthly) fees to be considered Wizarding World Gold members. And it comes with a special gold button that they can wear. Give me a break….

Every time I visit a bookstore, I find another shelf overflowing with official Harry Potter merchandise. The US Potter books themselves keep getting released with different covers. Funko pop vinyl figurines, board games, and more bust out from the shelves. Saturation for Harry Potter merchandise has reached an all-time high, and as I mentioned, quality for the largest properties is at an all-time low. Now Warner Bros. is taking Pottermore, which began as an earnest, delightful, and free companion to the Harry Potter books before it was gutted and replaced by the official-movie-photo-riddled, listicle-laden, soulless entry it is currently, and moving the content to a site where they are going to charge fans for access to the Potter e-books and to get decent seats at their overpriced, under-planned stage show. Count me the f*%# out.

Rowling Library ‘Daily Prophet’ #36 expresses similar sentiments.

The keeper line from Eric S.’s philippic I think is “Saturation for Harry Potter merchandise has reached an all-time high, and as I mentioned, quality for the largest properties is at an all-time low.” In case you think he is exaggerating about the new Potter related products available for sale, here is a list of gift items and fandom signal-tokens that have been rolled out just this week.

This is nothing new or especially lamentable. They had a display at the first HPEF fan convention in 2003 of Harry Potter products that included underwear and toothpaste. I bought a plastic plate there, a token which featured a picture of Harry catching a snitch, for my youngest son, now 18, who still treasures it. There’s a glut of products today that would not have been imaginable back then but the quality or ‘taste’ involved has not changed significantly.

What has changed is what we’re getting for our money in what Eric S. calls “the largest properties.” The movie adaptations of the original septology were only acceptable in light of the novels they reflected and our experiences we had therein; the films were servicable trailers for the imaginative entry or re-entry into the written stories. Rowling’s screenplays are not making it to the screen except as butchered re-packaging by Warmer Brothers mechanics named David, she didn’t write the play, and her new novels featuring Cormoran Strike have no wand magic.

If Rowling were to write up her screenplays as novels for Warner Brothers to adapt into blockbuster formula pieces, there wouldn’t be any bickering about the “monetizing” of PotterMore or the schlock available online and in gift shops. Here’s hoping someone at Rowling, Inc., headquarters realizes the brand is being devalued and urges her, in all her free time post twitter, to go with her strengths as a story teller — as a novelist, that is, not a screenwriter.

Your thoughts?


  1. Elaine T says

    My kid who was once obsessed with Potter now only looks to critique. Has also observed that fan-writers have all dropped the Wizarding World since the last movie, because it was just too awful. It’s certainly gone downhill.

    If she went back to writing books – an dhonestly, I think she should give the wizards a rest – she ‘dprobably do better.

  2. Louise Freeman says

    Elaine: I suggest you pick up the Cormoran Strike series…

  3. JKR writes one movie people don’t like and people want her to stop writing screenplays? That’s a slight overreaction in my opinion.

    How about we give her one more chance and wait for the next movie……If she drops the ball in that we can tell her to give screenplays a rest and only stick to novels. Let’s not demonize her as a horrible screenwriter after a movie or two. That’s just overkill. This is getting ridiculous now!

  4. ^ In golf we are taught not to try to fix in 6 months what the head pro can fix in a day. Another screenplay or 3 or 7 won’t change the fact that it’s obvious Rowling’s stories flourish best as novels.

    Cormoran Strike’s saga has a certain magic and fluidity that Beasts doesn’t— but could have it were a novel or a series.

    But, I do agree that the negativity is getting out of hand. I think both can be true— she’s a better novelist, but we also shouldn’t be overly critical if she’s trying to expand her artistic reach.

  5. I’m not sure if I am being charged as a Rowling basher here but, just in case, here is a clarifier.

    I do not think Rowling has failed as a screenwriter. I believe the evidence we have of cuts and deletions from her shooting script that the decision makers made one presumes to “fit the lady to the dress” as Rowling says Kloves put it, i.e., to force Rowling’s artistry into blockbuster movie formula and time constraints, means that we have not seen the movies she wrote.

    My concern is that we never will because Rowling will never have veto power over the final cut. And we will never see the shooting script or Rowling’s story-as-written.

    With that belief and concern, my hope is that The Presence and Warner Brothers will return to the relationship that made them a lot more money and millions of fans obsessive about stories and consequent film adaptations. Rowling writes the novel and then Warner Brothers butchers it into an acceptable movie version.

    I don’t think that’s negative but a solution to a problem that doesn’t allow for much improvement. Yates and Heyman as WB henchman are not going to be leashed and told to “Go with Jo!” Rowling is not going to write a story according to the ‘book’ of big film requirements, e.g. moment of intimacy between love interest, chase scene every twenty minutes, climactic confrontation with CGI galore, etc. ‘Novels Then Movies’ solves that impasse.

  6. John, I would never charge you with negativity! I should have specified that I meant “Wizarding World Twitter”. You’re absolutely spot on with your critiques.

  7. Brian Basore says

    In retrospect — available at this blog — JKR has handled the big money pretty well. She was teaching French in 1997 when the big money startled her, and she knew she preferred Warner Brothers films over, say, Disney. After she got a lawyer to help her with business, and had gone to Warner Brothers with the movie rights, she wrote the Harry Potter books, and managed to have a personal life too. That’s amazing.

    She made sure the books were there to be read, regardless of what else might happen. The rise and fall of Pottermore falls under “whatever else might happen”.

    Thank you, Ma’am.

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