Harry Potter turns 20: Business empire with humble start
After years of rejection letters, British author J.K. Rowling finally published the first volume of the Harry Potter saga 20 years ago, on June 26, 1997.
"Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" was the first of seven novels that spawned an empire comprising eight movies, a play, theme parks in the United States and Japan, a sightseeing tour in Scotland and a permanent exhibition at London's Warner Bros Studios.
Here is the background of a global phenomenon:
- The author -
Joanne Kathleen Rowling was born into a modest family in Chipping Sodbury, western England, on July 31, 1965.
She studied French and Classics at the University of Exeter before going to teach English in Portugal, where she began to chronicle the adventures of Harry Potter.
Rowling married Portuguese television journalist Jorge Arantesa in 1992, giving birth to their daughter Jessica in 1993. The couple divorced in 1995 and the author moved to Edinburgh, Scotland.
After finishing the novel, she joined forces with publisher Bloomsbury in August 1996.
Named Britain's best living writer in 2006, she has accrued a fortune of £650 million (743 million euros), according to the Sunday Times rich list published in May 2017.
She remarried in 2001, to Scottish doctor Neil Murray, and the couple have a boy and a girl.
- The story -
Conjured up on a 1990 train journey between Manchester and London, the saga follows a young wizard named Harry Potter and his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, led by headmaster Albus Dumbledore.
The main plot revolves around Harry's fight against Lord Voldemort, a dark lord of magic in search of immortality who murdered Potter's parents when he was still a baby.
- Seven books -
The entire saga comprises seven volumes, published between 1997 and 2007, with each taking place during a school year.
The story begins in the summer of 1991 when Harry Potter, not yet 11 years old, is accepted into Hogwarts.
- Eight films -
The seven books were adapted into eight movies, with the last volume "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" divided into two feature films.
The first two films were directed by Chris Columbus, the third by Mexican Alfonso Cuaron, the fourth by Mike Newell and the last four by David Yates.
- A play -
"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child", a two-and-a-half-hour play staged in London since July 2016, follows the hero as an adult and father-of-three.
In the production, Potter struggles to cope with his past while his family legacy proves to be a burden on youngest son Albus Severus Potter, "the cursed child."
- The numbers -
In all, the seven volumes of the saga, translated into 79 languages in 200 countries, have sold more than 450 million copies worldwide.
The first print run of "the Philosopher's Stone" produced 1,000 copies -- all now highly-sought after collectors items - and earned Rowling a £1,500 contract.
The movies have netted $7.2 billion (6.4 billion euros) worldwide, the books $7.7 billion, and merchandise $7.3 billion dollars, according to data from www.statisticbrain.com dating from September 2016.
- Tourist attractions -
The Harry Potter studios in Leavesden, north of London, invites fans to immerse themselves in Potter-world at a permanent exhibition, welcoming 6,000 visitors a day.
There are also theme parks created by Universal Studio in Orlando, Florida, Hollywood and Osaka, Japan.
VisitScotland, the Scotland Tourist Board, has set up a four-day guided tour from Edinburgh to the Highlands via the Glenfinnan or Edinburgh Viaduct, which feature in the saga.
© 2017 AFP