During a conference call on Thursday November 3, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav discussed a wide range of issues, including a keenness for the company to exploit the many franchises under their banner. The most eye-catching of those was the mention that they would seek to make more Harry Potter films, if they could work with author J.K. Rowling.
“We’re going to focus on franchises,” said Zaslav during the investor call. “We haven’t had a Superman movie in 13 years. We haven’t done a Harry Potter in 15 years. The DC movies and the Harry Potter movies provided a lot of the profits for Warner Bros. … over the past 25 years. I’d like to see if we can do something with J.K. on Harry Potter going forward.” Zaslav also noted that the studio also continued to hold the rights to The Lord of the Rings for theatrical purposes as well.
The desire for Warner Bros Discovery to return to Hogwarts is entirely unsurprising. The Potter franchise was a global phenomenon, with eight films released over ten years in almost unprecedented fashion with very little in the way of quality diminishing, and a box office total of $7.7 billion, as well as critical acclaim for most of the films. However, the spin-off series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which featured Rowling writing the stories herself for the screen, have seen diminishing returns and poor critical appraisal. The last installment, The Secrets of Dumbledore, was met with middling response and only earned $405.1 million worldwide. The franchise is due to have two more films to complete its series, but these have yet to be officially greenlit amidst the poor response.
The biggest issue for the company, though, is the absolute toxicity that now accompanies Rowling anywhere. The author has been publically and frequently transphobic and has continually doubled down on her stance via her social media feeds. The franchise’s star Daniel Radcliffe has previously spoken out against the creator of his most iconic character, and while doing the rounds for his latest movie Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, reiterated his feelings on the matter. He recently told IndieWire why he’d made those comments.
“The reason I was felt very, very much as though I needed to say something when I did was because, particularly since finishing ‘Potter,’ I’ve met so many queer and trans kids and young people who had a huge amount of identification with Potter on that. And so seeing them hurt on that day I was like, I wanted them to know that not everybody in the franchise felt that way. And that was really important,”
Radcliffe originally published an open letter on the website of The Trevor Project, an organization that runs the world’s largest suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ+ youth. Radcliffe has been an advocate of The Trevor Project since 2010. While WB/Discovery may be desperate for their magical cash cow to come back and start delivering the goods, the question will remain: When Harry Potter himself won’t work with J.K. Rowling any more, will people still want to see the boy wizard?