“I’m holy. Holey, Fred, geddit?”
(Don’t worry, your kids get it.)
It is a franchise that became a movement. A revelation. An era. Friday’s opening is the last chapter in a saga that has affected — at least via “Saturday Night Live” spoofs, mentions on university syllabuses, and in religious sermons — the world’s collective oversoul. Doled out incrementally over 14 years, it taught us patience.
“What has ‘Harry Potter’ meant?” asks Emerson Spartz, who founded the fan site MuggleNet.com as a home-schooled 12-year-old more than a decade ago. “What is the meaning of life?”
Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the vanquisher of the evil Lord Voldemort. His 1997 appearance enthralled a generation of readers and then schooled them, semester by semester, at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His adventures were penned by a single mom who lived her own adult fairy tale: She got lucky, got famous, got really attractive and got richer than almost everyone but Oprah.
Harry Potter keeps ending. There were stories about the end when Rowling finished the last book in early 2007, when her readers read the last book in mid-2007, when the last movie finished filming last year, and now . . . now what?
Now the numerical analysis begins, because non-fans often confuse what Harry Potter meant with what Harry Potter cost. It cost caped moviegoers more than $6 billion in ticket sales — a third more than all 22 James Bond movies combined. It cost readers the equivalent of 450 million copies, compared with 80 million for the beloved “Chronicles of Narnia.” It costs $80 a ticket for each visitor to Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park, where fans purchased a total of 2 million Butterbeers. It costs $46.99 to buy a naughty-wizard costume in Gryffindor colors on BuyCostume.com.
Despite the proliferation of stuff, it’s not about the stuff.
Harry Potter manufactured a decade in which nearly everyone could share one reference point. Be it through mocking or devotion, everyone knew what it was, which was rare in a fractured age of 500 cable channel options.
“It’s big. It’s huge. It’s going to be so huge. It’s the end of an era. I’m so excited, I’m going to die,” Paul Dergarabedian sighs. “I don’t know what I can say anymore.”
Dergarabedian studies box office numbers for Hollywood.com. He’s who you call when you want to know what movie data mean. He’s running out of ways to describe Harry Potter and the Massively Bloated Box Office. “To be this relevant? This beloved? I’ve never really seen anything quite like it.”