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Can Harry Potter's movie success send anyone back to the books?

November 22, 2010 | 11:56 am


The latest installment in the film version of the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1," had a massive box office opening this weekend, clocking in at more than $125 million in the U.S. alone.

Usually, that kind of popularity for a film that's based on a book has some literary blowback; publishers might even expect that the paperback would pop back onto bestseller lists, as happened this year with Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love."

But considering that "[a]bout 25% of the audience for 'Deathly Hallows' was between 18 and 35, compared with 10% for 'Goblet of Fire,' " as our sibling blog Company Town reports, that book sales bump may be in question. It seems that the Harry Potter viewership is aging in parallel to the demographic of those who've already read Harry Potter.

J.K. Rowling's first book in the series was released in the U.S. as "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in 1998. That means that the kids who were first on the bandwagon -- it's recommended for ages 9-12 -- are now in their early 20s.

Of course, Harry Potter started in the U.S. in 1998, but it didn't stop there. There have been seven books in all, the last of which -- "Deathly Hallows" -- came out 11 years later, in 2009. The series has been massively popular, selling mroe than 375 million copies worldwide, in dozens of languages. It made Rowling the world's best-paid author in 2008, according to Forbes Magazine.

As a result, there are lots and lots and lots of people who have grown up reading Harry Potter. They're enthusiastic enough to want to experience Harry Potter in the real world. Hundreds of high schools and colleges across the U.S. play Quidditch -- Middlebury College in Vermont -- was victorious at the Quidditch World Cup earlier this month. They're going to the movies, putting "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1" on track to meet or exceed 2009's "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," with hopes of reaching "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," the first in the series and still its greatest box-office champion.

As Company Town notes, production company Warner Bros. targeted its marketing campaign to Harry Potter's "consistent but huge audience of fans."

But if those people became fans as Harry Potter readers, can the movies' success draw a new audience to the books? Or is Harry Potter something that you already love or will never quite understand?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1." Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures