JK Rowling says it’s been cancelled, but a new ‘Fantastic Beasts’ movie and big book sales tell another story

JK Rowling rose to fame as the author of the best-selling book series of all time, “Harry Potter,” but has recently been known as something else: a TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist). The writer’s comments about trans women using women’s toilets and young people receiving gender-affirming health care have drawn the ire of everyone from GLAAD and Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, and prompted Rowling to conclude in June of 2020 that had become a victim of “cancellation.”

But the facts may not confirm it. Two years later, Rowling’s business is still brisk for her publisher Scholastic, Universal’s Harry Potter theme parks and Warner Bros., which will release the latest Potter-adjacent film, “Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets.” on Friday. Data shows that U.S. sales of Rowling’s books have increased in recent years, and the previous two “Fantastic Beasts” movies have outperformed on streaming. Rowling’s Twitter feed remains an endless compendium of anti-gender theories. Her reach there is also remarkably stable: Rowling has had around 14 million followers since the beginning of February 2018.

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That Rowling is able to hold opinions so strong that they are often viewed unfavorably, especially in the liberal Hollywood community, while continuing to rake in many millions of dollars probably speaks to the Harry Potter brand’s ability to stand on its own. For now. This weekend, Rowling faces her first box office test since she went public with her views and the question remains how enthusiastic the younger generation, and her parents, are for embracing Harry. Potter.

“Duplication is one of the riskiest crisis responses from someone who is heavily invested in, especially by a movie studio, because [everyone around them] he is forced to have an opinion,” Molly McPherson, a crisis public relations expert, told IndieWire. “She could have apologized, taken responsibility and slowly faded away. In her place, she opted to double down. When people choose to duplicate, they have to do it all-in, but it often comes at a cost.”

Rowling’s controversy began with a tweet she liked in March 2018, turned into one written by the author herself in December 2019, and reached a crescendo in June 2020. That’s when she left with everything, publish a long essay where she discussed her years-long interest in researching trans issues and highlighted five reasons why she is concerned about “the new trans activism.” That activism, of centering femininity around identity rather than reproductive organs or chromosomes, is, in Rowling’s view, part of the same misogynistic society that allowed Donald Trump to become president, despite from comments like the infamous “grab ’em by the pussy” he sold. -Camera to Billy Bush from “Access Hollywood”.

Katherine Waterston, Eddie Redmayne in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” - Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Courtesy Everett Collection

Katherine Waterston, Eddie Redmayne in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” – Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Courtesy Everett Collection

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Courtesy Everett Collection

“I talked about the importance of sex and have been paying the price ever since. He was transphobic, he was a dick, a bitch, a TERF, he deserved cancellation, beatings and death,” Rowling wrote in the essay. “But as endlessly disgusting as their constant attack on me has been, I refuse to bow to a movement that I think is doing demonstrable harm by trying to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and provide cover for predators like few before. .”

The price Rowling paid was this: Radcliffe and Eddie Redmayne were among the “Potter” stars who condemned his views within hours of the essay’s publication. Warner Bros. and Universal Parks & Resorts offered non-specific statements about diversity and inclusion. Scholastic offered support for both Rowling’s free speech rights and the rights of the queer community. And everyone continued to cash in on the Potter brand as the books, movies, and theme parks continued to become popular.

Rowling’s books sold 3.6 million copies in the US between April 2021 and March 2022, up 9.3 percent from the same period a year earlier (3.29 million copies sold) , according to data from NPD BookScan. Sales for 2021-22 were up 36 percent over the same 12 months in 2019-2020. The rise wasn’t unique to Rowling: Young adult fiction sales rose more than 30 percent between 2020 and 2021 as people turned to books during the COVID pandemic.

Still, Rowling isn’t exactly excluded either. Recent children’s books “The Ickabog” and “The Christmas Pig” spent several months on the New York Times Best Sellers Middle-Grade Hardcover List. Rowling is generally considered to be the richest author in the world, with her net worth often estimated to be around $1 billion.

“Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets” – Credit: Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

Universal opened the latest Harry Potter-themed land in September in Beijing.

The original “Harry Potter” and “Fantastic Beasts” movies continue to do well on broadcast. Based on data processed by the streaming aggregator Reelgoodthat allows users to search for titles across platforms, “Fantastic beasts and where to find them” had its best week between April 4 and 10: Almost five times more than the average amount of the movie was streamed or interacted with on the platform, according to data dating back to December 2019. That also marked second. best week for the second movie in the planned five-movie franchise,”The Grindelwald Crimes.” as fans caught up and freshened up to prepare for the release of “Dumbledore.”

And here’s an interesting fact about timing: All but one of the 10 films in the Harry Potter universe also performed better than average the week after Rowling published her controversial essay in June 2020, according to Reelgood.

But not everything is magical in Rowling’s Potterland. “Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets” marks the first time Rowling has not received sole screenwriting credit for a “Fantastic Beasts” film. (Potter alumnus Steve Kloves gets a co-author credit.) Rowling has been absent from much of the publicity effort surrounding “Dumbledore,” a break from the tradition established by the previous two films. She, too, did not appear on HBO Max’s recent “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: ​​Return to Hogwarts,” aside from archival interviews.

“Sometimes the easiest tactic is distance,” McPherson said.

Rowling was heavily courted by Warner Bros. for “Fantastic Beasts”; part of the deal to secure the franchise included massive budgets and a high degree of creative control given to the producer: the studio can’t hire anyone to rewrite their scripts without approval, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Rowling is not the only controversial figure in the Potter universe. Johnny Depp, who played the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in the first two “Fantastic Beasts” movies, left the franchise after losing a libel case against The Sun, which ran a 2018 article calling him a “wife beater.” Depp says he’s a victim of cancel culture. Grindelwald is played by Mads Mikkelsen in “Dumbledore”.

More recently regular franchise Ezra Miller was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge in Hawaii last month. He has been noticeably absent from the publicity efforts surrounding “Dumbledore.”

IndieWire’s Tom Brueggemann predicts “The Secrets of Dumbledore” has a chance of being released more than $50 million at the domestic box office and it could see its overall US revenue exceed $100 million, a feat during the pandemic era whose chances are boosted by its Easter weekend opening.

JK Rowling - Credit: Anthony Behar / Sipa USA

JK Rowling – Credit: Anthony Behar / Sipa USA

Anthony Behar / Sipa United States

“Dumbledore,” which has already opened overseas, has grossed $56.9 million worldwide so far on a reported budget of $200 million. The first “Fantastic Beasts” grossed $814 million worldwide and “Grindelwald” grossed $654.86 million. Compare that to the huge success of the original films, which ranged from 2004’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”‘s $795.63 million in grosses on the low end to the final installment’s $1.34 billion. , “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”. ”, published in 2011.

That pre-TERF drop in box office receipts speaks to another problem Rowling and her investors must grapple with. What about the lawsuit from Harry Potter himself? Despite the surge in sales of Rowling’s books, there are signs that the franchise’s popularity is waning. The London Times reported in 2020 that the Harry Potter books dropped out of the top 10 (self-reported) favorite books of high school kids, the first time that has happened in the 12 years since educational research firm Renaissance collected the data. It’s a younger group than the core audience of Millennial Potterheads, a sign that the series might have trouble attracting a new audience.

Another test of Rowling’s popularity will come in August, when she publishes the sixth book in her Cormoran Strike series, published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. she wrote in Galbraith’s website who chose a male pseudonym years ago “to get as far away from me as possible my character as a writer”.

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