Studio says unauthorized commercial activity needs to be halted but fans liken move to Dementors sucking the joy out of fun
Warner Bros is cracking down on local Harry Potter fan festivals around the US, saying it is necessary to halt unauthorized commercial activity. Fans liken the move to Dementors sucking the joy out of homegrown fun. Festival directors say they will change the events into generic celebrations of magic.
Its almost as if Warner Bros has been taken over by Voldemort, trying to use dark magic to destroy the light of a little town, said Sarah Jo Tucker, a 21-year-old junior at Chestnut Hill College, which hosts a Quidditch tournament that coincides with an annual festival in suburban Philadelphia.
Philip Dawson, Chestnut Hills business district director, said Warner Bros contacted his group in May, letting it know new guidelines prohibit the use of any names, places or objects from the Harry Potter books and films. That ruled out everything from a meet-and-greet with Dumbledore and Harry to classes in Defense Against the Dark Arts.
It was very quickly apparent werent going to be able to hold festival like years past, Dawson said. The late October festival drew about 45,000 fans last year. This year, they will instead have a wands and wizards family night and pub crawl and other magic-themed events. People will still be able dress as their favorite Potter characters.
We want to make the best of it, he said.
Chestnut Hill isnt the only community to receive cease-and-desist letters from Warner Bros. Festival directors in Aurora, Illinois and Ithaca, New York were also told the new guidelines would prohibit most Potter-themed activities, which are typically free events.
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 company said.
Fans of the Philadelphia festival tried on Twitter to get JK Rowling to help save the festival. A spokeswoman for the author said she had no comment.
Ithacas Wizarding Weekend grew from a small celebration in an alleyway in 2015 to a full-fledged Potter-fest hosting more than 20,000 fans last year, said Darlynne Overbaugh, the festival director.
Warner Bros sent her a letter in February. She said she understood the companys need to protect the franchise but said she felt her festival was helping to build it.
I have a lot of disappointed people because there are certain aspects of festival Im no longer able to do, she said, citing Sorting Hat demonstrations. Her group is still committed to providing a magical experience, she said, adding: Magic existed before Harry Potter, and you cant put a trademark on enthusiasm and creativity.
Warner Bros has put the Avada Kedavra on Potter-themed fun before. In 2003, a British woman was sent a cease-and-desist letter over a Hogwarts-themed dinner party with a guest list of around 30. A Los Angeles bookstore called Whimsic Alley was sued by the company over its overtly Hogwartsian wares, from chocolate frogs to Gryffindor scarves. They settled but the store closed last year. The opening of Wizarding World at Universal Studios Hollywood worked as a killing curse for the mom-and-pop shop.
One Philadelphia Potter fan, Sarah McIntyre, said it was ridiculous for Warner Bros to target fan festivals.
They are acting like the Dursleys, said the 34-year-old yoga teacher and bookkeeper. She said the company should be encouraging communities to bring Harry Potter to life. Creating interest in the franchise would increase revenue, she said.
Companies are always concerned about protecting trademarks, said Gregory Mandel, professor of intellectual property law at Temple University. Warner Bros has made a business decision to prevent festivals from having any apparent association with them, and to prevent any possible profiting off the series, he said.
Obviously one could argue that is the wrong business decision and that by having these informal pop-up festivals, it makes all the Harry Potter fans more enthusiastic and more likely to go to the movies and theme parks, he said.
Lorrie Kim, a member of the Potterdelphia club and huge Snape fan, said she felt disappointed and grim to lose the festival.
Seeing the throngs of families of all ages enjoying the festival together, all agreeing to suspend their skepticism for the day and believe in magic, is an experience that cant be manufactured, she said.
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