After much speculation, Warner Bros. Discovery made it official at Wednesday’s event to unveil the new Max streaming service: The studio is re-adapting J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books into a TV series with an all-new cast, with Rowling onboard to executive produce.
As expected, this time the seven novels will play out in the form of a streaming show debuting exclusively on Max, the newly renamed service which combines HBO Max and Discovery+. The best-selling young-adult fantasy novels will unfold again with new actors playing the iconic roles in a series that will span a decade. While it wasn’t confirmed that each season will take up one novel, each book does take place over a single school year.
“Max’s commitment to preserving the integrity of my books is important to me, and I’m looking forward to being part of this new adaptation which will allow for a degree of depth and detail only afforded by a longform television series,” Rowling said in a statement.
“We are delighted to give audiences the opportunity to discover Hogwarts in a whole new way,” Casey Bloys, HBO and Max Content CEO said in a statement. “‘Harry Poter’ is a cultural phenomenon and it is clear that there is such an enduring love and thirst for the Wizarding World. In a partnership with Warner Bros. Television and J.K. Rowling, this new Max Original series will dive deep into each of the iconic books that fans have continued to enjoy for all of these years.”
David Heyman, who produced the “Harry Potter” and “Fantastic Beasts” film series, is in talks to produce the TV series as well. The show will be produced by Max in association with Brontë Film and TV, and Warner Bros. Television. It will be executive produced by J.K. Rowling, Neil Blair and Ruth Kenley-Letts.
The timing of the show announcement arrives at a dubious time for the series. Rowling has come under fire over the last few years for transphobic declarations. And the ill-received “Fantastic Beasts” prequel film franchise cashed out after three movies — grossing $814 million in 2016, $659 million in 2018 and then $395 million in 2022. But the actual “Harry Potter” books and movies remain incredibly popular.
The “Harry Potter” books and movies remain incredibly popular
The books have sold, as of October of 2021, around 27.4 million copies in the United Kingdom and over 500 million worldwide. The film versions began arriving between four in 2000 and book five in 2003, with Chris Columbus’ “Harry Potter and the Sorcererer’s Stone” shattering box office records and grossing $974 million worldwide in late 2021, second at that time behind “Titanic” among all-time global grossers. The eight feature films, released between November 2021 and July 2011, grossed a combined $7.84 billion worldwide on a combined $1.15 billion budget.
“Fantastic Beasts” flamed out because audiences weren’t invested in the specific prequel franchise, not because any online discourse impacted the popularity of the Hogwarts-specific mythology or the Harry Potter series itself. While the recent multiplatform video game “Hogwarts Legacy” was released under a cloud of controversy over both Rowling’s public comments and accusations that the game’s goblin-rebellion plot dabbled in anti-Semitic stereotypes, it still sold 12 million copies and earned $850 million in its first two weeks of release.
Is a “Harry Potter” show the next “House of the Dragons” or “Ring of Power”?
However, the show will have to deal with generations of fans who associate Harry, Hermoine and Ron in the visage of the actors who played them in the films, namely Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, respectively. Quite a bit of the fan base comes not from the books, or from the IP in the abstract, but from the specific feature films which kicked off two decades of four-quadrant, mega-bucks fantasy franchise tentpoles.
Meanwhile, with word that only 37% of Prime Video subscribers watched the entire first season of “The Rings of Power” — compared to 83% of Netflix viewers who finished the whole first season of “Squid Game,” Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav and friends will have to wonder if initial curiosity over a television adaptation of “The Sorcerer’s Stone” will justify consumer interest in the next six seasons of big-budget fantasy television. Maybe a streaming “Harry Potter” show is an idea less desired by the fans than by WBD shareholders.