Harry Potter: Warner Bros.' Plans to Keep Money Flowing After Franchise Ends

6:36 AM PST 07/15/2011 by Georg Szalai
Warner Bros.

The studio is eyeing an expansion of Potter theme park attractions around the world, online businesses and video games, and it will transform the London studio where it filmed the franchise into a tourist destination.

NEW YORK - The final Harry Potter movie may be in theaters now, but Time Warner's Warner Bros. is working to keep the magic - and the financial contributions - of its biggest film franchise ever alive, according to the Wall Street Journal.

After a decade of Potter film magic, the studio is looking for ways to keep the franchise going beyond the silver screen.

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A likely expansion of Harry Potter theme parks around the world, as well as investments into Potter-related online businesses and video games are among the plans, according to the Journal.

Plus, by April, the company wants to make Leavesden Studios in London, where it filmed the eight films in the Potter franchise, into a tourist destination. The opening is planned to happen ahead of the Olympics in London.

The Journal said the Potter brand has brought in nearly $20 billion in retail sales for Warner and its partners and added $1 billion to the studio's bottom line, making it one of the most valuable film franchises.

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"We obviously think Potter is an evergreen property," Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Barry Meyer told the Journal. "This is not something that ends with the film franchise."

As a key challenge, the paper noted that as Warner tries to stretch the brand to new businesses, it will have to balance the desire for business success with the integrity of the story.

And there is the risk that the franchise may become stale down the line without new material.

Many dimensions of the story are timeless but there is a challenge in how do you keep it relevant and fresh," said Allen Adamson, managing director at brand consulting firm Landor Associates.

"Not a year from now, not three years from now, but five years from now, 10 years from now."

Asked if Potter author J.K. Rowling will write another installment of the franchise one day, Warner executives said they don't know. "Your guess is as good as mine," Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, told the Journal. "If Jo doesn't write another Harry Potter book, there isn't going to be a new Harry Potter movie."

But Warner is planning to use two a Potter companion books written by Rowling and published in 2001 - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages. The magical creatures and sports lore in the books could lend themselves for use in new forms.

The Journal said Warner executives didn't specify plans, but the studio owns the audio and visual rights.

Potter-relatedbusinesses have helped the studio increase its operating profit to $1.1 billion last year, from $450 million in 2001 when the studio released its first film in the series. Time Warner doesn't break out the financial contribution of films or film franchises, but Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne estimates that the various Potter businesses have generated around 15 percent of the studio's operating profit a year.

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