Sadly, because reality leaves much to be desired compared to the magic of fantasy worlds, none of us will ever receive our letter from Hogwarts, trek through the wilderness of Middle Earth or have people plot our demise in Westeros. But for fans of Harry Potter, coming together with other Potterheads at Harry Potter fan festivals is a fun way to feel a little closer to the Wizarding World with like-minded individuals. But Warner Bros, the studio behind the Harry Potter films, has started cracking down on these local fan festivals.
Fan festivals around the country have received cease-and-desist letters that, according to the New York Daily News, Warner Bros said are necessary to halt unauthorized commercial activity. The Harry Potter Festival in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, a famous, internationally-recognized event that has drawn as many as 50,000 fans, has been forced to cancel the October event due to the legal pressure from Warner Bros. The studio let the festival know that because of new guidelines, the festival could no longer use any names places, object or images from the series as a part of the event. Because of this, the organizers realized that they could not hold the festival as they previously had. So the Harry Potter Festival has been cancelled and replaced with a "wands and wizards" family night that will feature magic-themed events and a pub-crawl.
In years past, the Harry Potter Festival in Chestnut Hill featured hayrides, Defense Against the Dark Arts classes and Sorting Hat demonstrations. The festival also had meet and greets with Harry and Dumbledore, and there was a Quidditch tournament at Chestnut Hill College that coincided with the festival. Chestnut Hill's business director told Philly.com that he asked Warner Bros for a license to host the event, but was told that the studio has no plans to issue licenses at the moment.
For Warner Bros, this is all about protecting the extremely valuable brand. Warner Bros seems to be glad that there is fan enthusiasm, but when that enthusiasm turns to commercial activity is where the studio has a problem with it. Basically, it sounds like it is fine if kids play Harry Potter in their backyard or college kids play Quidditch on campus, but when anyone starts profiting from something with the Harry Potter name attached to it, that's where legal action comes into play.
This certainly can be viewed as a big corporation acting very Dementor-like and taking away happiness from people. However, whenever something beloved like Harry Potter is part of a moneymaking enterprise, the owners are not going to let others profit off of their property. Harry Potter is extremely valuable, and I imagine that the studio views anything that uses the name in such a way as something that could potentially harm the brand.
The people who have frequented the festival in the past cited how it creates interest in the franchise, and it's hard to argue that it doesn't keep the love alive for Harry Potter. So it would be cool if in the future, Warner Bros started at least issuing licenses for authorized festivals to use the property's names. Because if Warner Bros. isn't going to suddenly start putting on its own festivals, it is basically saying the only way you can experience something like this is to come to one of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme parks, which isn't always an option for everyone. On the other hand, it is probably pretty easy for a magic festival to be a Harry Potter festival in all but name, maintaining the spirit without infringing on fiercely-defended corporate copyrights.
The next film in the Wizarding World from the mind of J.K. Rowling is Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, in theaters on November 16. For all of this years biggest and most magical films, check out our release schedule.
Nick grew up in Maryland has degrees in Film Studies and Communications. His life goal is to walk the earth, meet people and get into adventures. He’s also still looking for The Adventures of Pete and Pete season 3 on DVD if anyone has a lead.
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