Without much in the way of officially-sanctioned Harry Potter conventions, fans of the wizarding world have spent years running their own cons celebrating J.K. Rowling’s beloved book and film series—but that’s starting to change, thanks to a new crackdown being enforced by Warner Bros.
The news comes out of a report this weekend by the Associated Press, focusing on the recent de-Potterization of a Quidditch tournament/festival at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Organizers for the event were one of several recently contacted by Warner Bros. to be told that new guidelines for fan events meant that no names or terms from the Potter franchise could be used outside of an official capacity by Warner itself. Harry, in a twist of irony, has become He Who Shall Not Be Named (outside of Warner Bros.’ express permission, that is).
Here’s the full statement provided to the AP by the studio explaining the new fan event guidelines:
Warner Bros. is always pleased to learn of the enthusiasm of Harry Potter fans, but we are concerned, and do object, when fan gatherings become a vehicle for unauthorized commercial activity.
The events can still go on, but more as generically wizard-y gatherings rather than explicitly Harry Potter themed.
Warner is, of course, well within its rights to make sure that its ownership of the Potter-dom is used properly, and that a clear line is drawn between officially-sanctioned events that the company is responsible for and fan-run gatherings. But even then, it’s not a good look to be going after social events where fandom can celebrate the stories and characters they love so a ginormous movie studio can be rest assured any “unauthorized commercial activity” is being quashed. It’s become rather gauche to compare real-life events to Harry Potter lately, but still, this is all a bit of a Dolores Umbridge move.
Part of the reason events like these have cropped up over the years is that Warner Bros. rarely has official Potter events like this with any regularity—there’s things like Universal Studio Orlando’s annual Harry Potter event or official exhibitions like the Warner Bros. studio tour, but those aren’t really the same sort of fandom gathering like a lot of these festivals are. If Warner Bros. is going to start cracking down on them, hopefully it would get the picture that there’s an audience that would love to see these sort of events continue in an official capacity.
Given that the studio is aiming to turn the Potter-verse into a heaving franchise that reaches beyond the original book series with stuff like the Fantastic Beasts film series or The Cursed Child play, having conventions and events like this would be a good way to keep fans excited for the future cavalcade of movies and tie-ins. Plus, they’d get some of that sweet, authorized commercial activity WB apparently craves.