Harry has proven to be an incredible money machine, making fistfuls for its Ms. Rowling; its U.S. distributor, Scholastic; video-games maker Electronic Arts; toymaker Mattel; and Time Warner, which has filmed the movies based on the first four books.
The first Harry Potter movie, 2001's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," earned almost $1 billion in ticket sales alone, which at the time made it Warner Bros. most successful film to date. Not only have the theatrical releases been consistently credited in Time Warner earnings reports as having boosted its filmed entertainment divisions' revenues, but the subsequent video and DVD sales also delivered vast amounts of cash. The fifth film, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," will be released next year, on July 13.
Potter-heads, like "Star Wars" fans, tend to be a bit obsessive. Over 300 million Harry Potter books have been sold worldwide, many at midnight book parties where young fans show up in bookstores dressed as wizards to await the release of the next in the series. Watercooler has chaperoned several such excursions, and held sobbing children later when they read about the killing off of Harry's godfather, Sirius, and Hogwarts' benevolent leader, Dumbledore. We don't even want to contemplate what the death of Harry, or even possibly best friends Ron and Hermione, or gentle giant Hagrid, might do to fans. But Rowling, who has always demonstrated a fierce protective streak toward her character, doesn't want anyone trying to take her story in a direction she doesn't control.
"I've never been tempted to kill him [Harry] off before the end of book seven, because I always planned seven books and that's where I want to go," Rowling said during the interview on U.K.'s Channel 4. "I can completely understand, however, the mentality of an author who thinks 'Well, I'm going to kill them off because that means there can be no non-author-written sequels ... so it will end with me, and after I'm dead and gone they won't be able to bring back the character.'"
So Warner Bros., if they continue the film franchise, will have a real downer of a final film. Watercooler isn't sure the studio has enough time to film the rest of the series anyway, given how quickly the once-cute kid stars are rapidly growing into attractive young adults, and stretching the credibility of audiences to believe them in their student roles. So perhaps the final Harry Potter movie will attempt to telescope the last two books into one final chapter, and lay a young wizard to rest for good. However it ends, Watercooler will have tissues at the ready for disappointed Muggles.