‘Harry Potter’ fan festivals are a popular staple for cities around the country, but Warner Bros. is apparently not a fan of these magical gatherings. The studio has started to crack down on the events, saying “it’s necessary to halt unauthorized commercial activity.” Fans are, obviously, annoyed at the decision. Seriously, Warner Bros., what is this, Azkaban?
Sarah Jo Tucker, a 21-year-old junior at Chestnut Hill College, hosts a Quidditch tournament that coincides with the annual Philadelphia ‘Potter’ festival. Tucker expressed her frustration with the situation, saying:
“It’s almost as if Warner Bros. has been taken over by Voldemort, trying to use dark magic to destroy the light of a little town.”
Philip Dawson, Chestnut Hill’s business district director, said Warner Bros. reached out in May, explaining that new guidelines will prohibit the use of any names, places or objects from the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise. The rules put a damper on everything from meet-and-greets with popular characters to Defense Against the Dark Arts classes. Dawson said:
“It was very quickly apparent (we) weren’t going to be able to hold festivals like years past.”
The festival, which is held in late October, is very popular – drawing approximately 45,000 fans last year. This year, the event will feature a “wands and wizards” family night and pub crawl and other generically magic-themed events. Guests can still come dressed as their favorite characters, as Warner Bros. hasn’t yet figured out how to make cosplaying illegal (insert eye-roll emoji here).
Chestnut Hill isn’t alone in receiving cease and desist letters from Warner Bros., as festival directors around the country, including in Aurora, Illinois, and Ithaca, New York, were also told the new guidelines would put a damper on their ‘Harry Potter’ themed activities.
The studio claims that the end goal is protecting the trademark in a statement saying:
“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.”
Fans of the Philadelphia festival tried to get the attention of J.K. Rowling on Twitter, hoping to get the author to help save the event. A spokeswoman for Rowling said she has no comment, which is a tad disappointing considering how supportive Rowling has been of fans in the past.
The Ithaca festival, “Wizarding Weekend,” started as a small celebration in an alleyway in 2015, and has since grown into to a giant festival hosting over 20,000 fans last year, according to Darlynne Overbaugh, the festival’s director. Her cease and desist letter showed up via own in February. Just kidding, it probably came through the USPS like all fun crushing letters tend to do.
Overbaugh says she understands the company’s need to protect the franchise, but she also feels like her festival was helping to build it. She said:
“I have a lot of disappointed people because there are certain aspects of festival I’m no longer able to do.”
She is referring to events like Sorting Hat demonstrations. She continued, saying:
“Magic existed before ‘Harry Potter,’ and you can’t put a trademark on enthusiasm and creativity.”
The crackdown on local festivals is not the first time Warner Bros. has sucked the fun out of everything Dementor-style. A woman in the U.K. was sent a cease and desist over a Hogwarts-themed dinner party she planned, where she expected 30 guests.
Philadelphia ‘Potter’ festival fan Sarah McIntyre thinks targeting the festivals is something Warner Bros. should lay off of, saying:
“They are acting like the Dursleys. Creating interest in the franchise would increase revenue.”
Gregory Mandel, professor of intellectual property law at Temple University, argued that Warner Bros. has simply made a business decision to prevent these festivals from profitting off the series, which is nothing new in the entertainment industry. Mandel 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.”
Lorrie Kim, a member of the Potterdelphia club, said she feels “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 can’t be manufactured.”