‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ came to the U.S. 20 years ago this fall
Writer Joanne “J.K.” Rowling first enchanted American families with “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” 20 years ago this Sept. 1. The wizarding world that the single mom conjured in a 200-page, handwritten manuscript — which more than a dozen publishers rejected at first — has spawned the best-selling book series of all time, eight films that raked in $7.7 billion across the globe and a Tony- and Olivier Award-winning play. That adds up to an estimated $650 million for Rowling’s vault at Gringotts, and $25 billion and counting for the franchise.
And the charmed coming-of-age series about an orphan attending a magical boarding school had perfect timing on its side: The first four books and the first movie came out just as the internet was going mainstream; half of U.S. homes were online by 2001 compared to just a third in mid-1999, Den of Geek notes, so people had online forums to fuel their fandom together.
“The [Harry Potter books] are so complex and clever in how they present and navigate questions of identity, empathy, gender, race, class, history and political systems. And they let all of us as readers grow into that complexity right alongside Harry,” explained Renee Fox, a University of California, Santa Cruz associate professor whose Harry Potter-themed humanities course drew almost 400 students.
And the fierce fandom around “the Boy Who Lived” shows no sign of disapparating. Not only is the stage production “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” making about $2 million a week on Broadway, the prequel series “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” has its second film in a five-part series premiering this fall, and the British Library’s “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” exhibit opens at the New-York Historical Society in October.
“Rowling invented this incredible world, and she went into such detail, and there are so many beasts and characters and locations and elements of this magic world that she fully developed, that she gave the screenwriters and the playwrights a really great foundation to expand upon,” Marissa DiBartolo, co-editor-in-chief of the Pop Insider, told Moneyish. DiBartolo.
So in honor of the Harry Potter series’ 20th anniversary in the U.S., here’s a by-the-numbers look at the magic (and money) the boy wizard and his besties Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger have made by casting their spell on us.
- Scholastic printed 50,000 copies of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” for its first U.S. run in September 1998; to date, the entire Harry Potter book series has made $7.7 billion selling more than 180 million copies in this country and more than 500 million copies worldwide in 200-plus territories and 80 languages. Pottermore, the digital heart of Rowling’s Wizarding World, breaks that down to one in 15 people in the world owning a Harry Potter book.
- The novels are composed of 1,100,086 words, according to Pottermore, including a couple invented by Rowling that have been added to our everyday lexicon, such as “Muggle” (non-magical humans) and “Quidditch” (an imaginary aerial sport played on broomsticks that mixes rugby, dodgeball and hockey).
- The seven books, not counting special editions or boxed sets, spent a combined 1,739 weeks on USA Today’s best-seller list, with “Sorcerer’s Stone” boasting the most at 481 weeks. Every book hit No. 1. The books spent 10 years straight on the New York Times’ best-seller list.
- About 300 kids tested for the film role of Harry Potter over seven months before producer Dan Heyman took a break one night by seeing a show — and ran into a young Daniel Radcliffe. “There sitting behind me was this boy with these big blue eyes,” he told Hero Complex. He convinced Radcliffe’s parents to have him audition, and the perfect Harry was cast.
- Harry’s lightning-bolt-shaped scar had to be painted onto the foreheads of Radcliffe and his stunt doubles 5,800 times during filming all eight films, and Radcliffe also ran through 160 pairs of Harry’s signature round eyeglasses.
- Rowling became the world’s highest-paid author in 2016, raking in $95 million over the 12 months to June, Forbes reported, and landing her in third place on the site’s list of highest-paid celebrities. At her peak, she commanded a whopping $300 million in 2008; her most recent cash flow is largely thanks to “Fantastic Beasts” (which made $814 million at the global box office), the Potter theme parks and the smashing success of “Cursed Child” on Broadway.
- ”Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is the most expensive nonmusical Broadway play in history, costing $68.5 million, according to The New York Times, including $33 million to renovate the Lyric Theatre and $3.2 to pay the 40 actors, 220 crew members and other workers. (Most nonmusical plays on Broadway cost between $3 million and $5 million, in comparison.) But it made more than $2.1 million during the first week of April alone — when the show was still in previews — marking the highest single-week ticket sales for a Broadway nonmusical.
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park opened in Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Florida in 2010, followed by the ones in Universal Studios’ Orlando and Hollywood parks in 2014 and 2016, respectively. Industry reports by the Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM suggest it’s had a huge windfall: Attendance at Universal Studios’ theme parks rose 80% to 47.4 million from 2010 to 2016.
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