'Harry Potter' over the years

A retrospective look at the success of 'Harry Potter' over the last 14 years.

By , Contributor

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    Harry, Ron, and Hermione on a 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' movie poster.
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In 1997 Bill Clinton had just begun his second term, Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear in a boxing match, and Leonardo DiCaprio won hearts as Jack Dawson in 'Titanic.'

It was also the year that a single mom published, on a tight income and benefits, her first book. 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone' would soon become one of the best-selling books of modern times and JK Rowling one of the world’s richest women.

Almost a decade and a half and seven books, eight films, a theme park, and tens of thousands of adoring fans later, we’re about to witness the final chapter in our beloved boy wizard’s story: 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' opens in theaters Friday.

No one thought she would survive a cutthroat publishing marketplace back in 1995, when Rowling penned 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' in local cafes whenever she could get her daughter to sleep. Some 12 London publishers rejected Rowling’s manuscript about a vulnerable boy wizard battling dark forces before one finally accepted it. Independent publisher Bloomsbury accepted Rowling’s manuscript for a mere $3,750 advance and published an initial run of only 500 copies.

Sales were sluggish, but picked up fast when 'Sorcerer’s Stone' won two awards and the story went viral. In 1998, 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' was published by Bloomsbury and went straight into the No. 1 slot on the BookTrack bestseller list. It was also the year that Warner Bros. secured film rights to the first two books for a seven-figure sum. Things began heating up.

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In November 2002, the 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' film was released in Britain and the United States. And in 2003, 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' was published. The fifth book in the series sold more than 5 million copies in its first day. With film openings brimming with Potter-caped kids and midnight-release parties planned at bookstores across the country, it was a Potter bonanza for fans, booksellers, and Warner Bros. alike.

In 2004, the film version of 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' was released, making $92.7 million in the US. The three-day haul for the new film surpassed any previous 'Potter' film revenues. July 2007 was a heady month for Potterphiles: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the fifth movie in the series, was released in the same month as 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,' the seventh and final volume in the tale. It sold more than 11 million copies, snapped up during the first 24 hours of release.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure park in Orlando, Florida, in June 2010. The 20-acre Harry Potter theme and dream park recreates the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and reportedly cost $250 million to build. Later that year, in October, Rowling was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, and admitted that she cried uncontrollably when she finished the last 'Potter' book. She also said she’s not ruling out writing another one.

Since Harry Potter’s introduction to the muggle world, Harry has become a global phenomenon. Over the past 15 years, we’ve read about his life in seven brick-thick books, watched him in seven films (soon to be eight). His books have sold more than 450 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 67 languages. His films so far have earned more than $6 billion at the global box office. But there’s more to come.

The eighth and final installment of Warner Bros.' 'Harry Potter' movie franchise, 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,' opens Friday, July 15. Warner Bros. reportedly paid $100 million for Leavesden Studios, where it filmed the movies. The numbers are incredible, reports the Hollywood Reporter: Actor Daniel Radcliffe wore out nearly 70 wands and 160 pairs of glasses during the making of the 'Harry Potter' films. Prop artists made 40 versions of Salazar Slytherin's locket to accommodate Ron and Harry's failed attempts to destroy it. Set artists used five 32-ton trucks' worth of polystyrene to create mounds of the rubble for 'Deathly Hallows.' And some 210,000 coins were made for the Gringotts bank scene. The number we’re all waiting to see? Will “Deathly Hollows” trump all the previous 'Potter' films at the box office?

Husna Haq is a Monitor contributor.

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