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There’s nothing cursed about J.K. Rowling’s return to the world of wizarding.
Over 10 days, the author sparked pandemonium on the stage and page and generated a flurry of new deals in the process. On July 30, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two debuted at London’s Palace Theatre to stellar reviews and sold-out crowds, with a Broadway transfer all but assured. The next day, the script book launched, selling more than 2 million print copies in North America in its first 48 hours and another 1.3 million in the week that followed, becoming one of the fastest-selling literary works in history. On Aug. 3, Warner Bros. revealed Rowling will write the script for a sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which it dated for Nov. 16, 2018. And on Aug. 8, NBCUniversal inked an exclusive deal worth a reported $250 million with Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution for U.S. broadcast and cable rights to all eight Harry Potter films, which will air on USA, Syfy and other NBCUniversal networks. (NBCU also nabbed exclusive cable rights to the new Fantastic Beasts films.)
Warners is so high on Fantastic Beasts‘ prospects that it is saying “no thanks” to Brett Ratner and James Packer’s money. Sources say the studio is holding back Beasts, which opens Nov. 18, and the sequel from its slate co-finance partner RatPac-Dune Entertainment. By contrast, it hedged its bets on Suicide Squad and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice by cutting in RatPac-Dune.
“Harry Potter is Warner Bros.’ crown jewel, and they are not going to allow anyone else to share in the profits,” says a source familiar with the deal.
That strategy would appear sound given the Harry Potter films earned $7.7 billion at the worldwide box office. And even though it’s not yet clear whether audiences will embrace a new set of characters, Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts deal — spearheaded by Warners CEO Kevin Tsujihara — is said to be the richest ever for a screenwriter (that’s to say nothing of her Universal Studios theme parks licensing agreement with Warner Bros., estimated at nine figures).
But the most tantalizing question is whether the five-hour Cursed Child play will migrate to the big screen as two movies. The story, which takes place 19 years in the future, sees Harry working at the Ministry of Magic while raising three children, one of whom may share his penchant for attracting the dark forces. Though Warner Bros. controls the characters and would have dibs on a film, there is nothing in the works, and the plan is for Fantastic Beasts to run its course before discussions begin. Rowling, 51, is focused on writing the sequel’s script and is working closely with producers David Heyman and Steve Kloves.
In the meantime, Harry Potter fanatics who live anywhere but London will have to content themselves with the script book. “I can’t think of anything since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that has sold like this,” says Scholastic trade president Ellie Berger. “The daily sales have exceeded everyone’s expectations. There’s tremendous energy with us in the marketplace right now.”
This story first appeared in the Aug. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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