Harry Potter: Launching An Unmatched Literary Franchise and Fandom

26 years, 7 books, 8 movies, and 3 theme parks later, Harry Potter has become one of the biggest literary franchises in history. Let’s take a look as to why.

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The Harry Potter franchise is a multi-billion dollar establishment, and it all started with a boy who lived. 26 years ago, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in England, and two short years later, it was renamed and released in the U.S. by Scholastic. Rowling had no idea that the children’s novel about an abused orphan prophesized as the “Chosen One” would spark a literary and Hollywood franchise that almost every person on Earth knows. It would launch the newest evolution of the fandom and spark new literary milestones in contemporary literature.

But why? What makes it so special? I mean, Wizard’s Hall by Jane Yolen and The Secret Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson are eerily similar to the HP plot and came before it but never received as much attention. And there are many more similar earlier released stories. So it begs the question, what gives?

Harry Potter and The Explosion of the Internet

Now, I am an HP fan of old. I was in middle school when it hit the shelves here in the U.S. and like most young voracious readers, my friends and I devoured this book. We then impatiently awaited the release of each subsequent novel of the series. So, as one who was around, I can add some cred to this speculation. Rowling was incredibly lucky that her book was released at the same time the Internet was becoming a household staple. 


Yes, even with dial-up, you can be assured that we waited for our parents to allow us to tie up the phone lines so that we could discover new secrets on J.K. Rowling’s website. This was pre-Pottermore, guys! It was an amazing place for book lovers and fans of HP. It was interactive in a way that made you love the books more, plus you got first-hand secrets and unreleased canon directly from the author herself. I can still see the messy desk, wads of paper, and spiders crawling across everything. 

In 2009, the first iteration of Pottermore was opened, and a few years later was reinvented. In 2019, it was replaced by The Wizarding World and became just that much more interactive. With constant internet involvement keeping the masses guessing and reliving the wizarding world, it surely helped further develop the fanbase.

Fandoms on a Whole New Level

Fandoms have been around for a long time. Jane Austen and Star Wars are proof of that. Secret societies have been around for centuries for some authors and their works. Austen’s even included some royalty. Conventions for us nerds and geeks have been around for decades, and they’ve only gotten more elaborate and awesome over the years. But HP brought a whole new aspect to the century’s-old term fandom. 

Suddenly there were websites dedicated to HP canon, lore, and fanfics. Whole messenger chat rooms—you elder Millenials know what I’m talking about—were created specifically for fans to connect across the globe. It was truly one of the first internationally active fandoms that could interact with one another in real-time. It was exciting stuff and set the stage for new fandoms to develop and evolve from other literary works.

Harry Potter Takes Hollywood

David Heyman bought the film rights for the first four books just two years after the first English publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The movie was then created and distributed by Warner Bros. in 2001. Funny enough, when Heyman originally bought the rights, he tossed it aside as he hated the title. We have his secretary to thank for saving it from being relegated to the Room of Requirement, never to be seen again.


Thankfully, the first was a smash hit, and all eight movies were produced in a 10-year span from 2001-2011. Some of us started this series with the books in middle school and finished the last movie with kids of our own to read them to. The books and, therefore, films were a success for several reasons.

  1. They were relatable to everyone. If you think it was just kids in those theatres, excited to see “the boy who lived” come to life, you’d be wrong. 
  2. The casting was perfect. Until Dumbledore had to be recast—RIP Richard Harris—every character was meticulously and perfectly cast. Not a single actor could be replaced with another and fit as seamlessly into the role as the original actors.
  3. With some exceptions—Peeves, Winky, a-full-explanation-of-all-things Neville Longbottom—the films were a great adaptation of the novels. It was never going to be perfect, and not everything was going to make the cut. But what sold it, at least for me, was that it wasn’t produced as a movie just for kids. You really felt and grew with the characters; the graphics were phenomenal and allowed for the suspension of reality in a way that many other sci-fi/fantasy films weren’t able to attain.

Harry Potter Wizarding World Merchandise and Adventure Parks Sealed It

Lastly, to really emphasize how integral this series was to the evolution of the fandom and literature, merchandise was created for a book that wasn’t a bookmark. Prior to HP, most of the fun things to buy related to your favorite book were relegated to book-related items. Harry Potter saw t-shirts, mugs, wands, etc… being created for fans to consume. New editions were created just for HP fans; we’re getting pop-up books, illustrated books, and Hogwarts House-specific stationary. You can walk into any Barnes & Noble and see an entire section dedicated to Harry Potter. This doesn’t even include video games! You know, because we readers are gamers too.


In 2010, Universal Studios opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure. Potterheads could now explore the world of HP in person interactively. They could ride the Hogwarts Express, drink Butterbeer in Diagon Alley, and make magic happen with specially purchased wands. 

That’s Not in Galleons or Knuts

To date, the Harry Potter books have generated a staggering $25 billion dollars, and the films a whopping $10 Billion. In total, the entire franchise is worth approximately $50 billion. While there have been some great literary and film success stories, none arrived at just the right time to generate the same level of success as Harry Potter. 

Harry Potter will always have a special place in my heart, but had it not come out when it did, and the film rights had been left to gather dust, we might not have experienced this type of global pop culture phenomenon. 

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