Warner Bros cracking down on Harry Potter fan festivals

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Los Angeles, June 17 (IANS) Entertainment company Warner Bros is cracking down on local Harry Potter fan festivals, saying it is necessary to halt unauthorised commercial activity.

Fans, however, liken the move to Dementors — evil characters in the “Harry Potter” franchise — sucking the joy out of homegrown fun, while festival directors say they will transfigure the events into generic celebrations of magic, reports hollywoodreporter.com.

“It’s almost as if Warner Bros has been taken over by Voldemort, trying to use dark magic to destroy the light of a little town,” said a 21-year-old junior at Chestnut Hill College, which hosts a Quidditch (game in “Harry Potter”) tournament that coincides with the annual suburban Philadelphia festival.

Philip Dawson, Chestnut Hill’s business district director, said the studio reached out to his group in May, letting them know new guidelines prohibit festivals’ use of any names, places or objects from the series.

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That ruled out everything from meet-and-greet with (character) Dumbledore and Harry to Defense Against the Dark Arts classes.

“It was very quickly apparent we were not going to be able to hold festival like years past,” he said.

The late October festival drew about 45,000 fans last year. This year, they will instead have a “wands and wizards” family night and pub crawl and other magic-themed events, and people can still dress as their favourite characters.

“We want to make the best of it,” he said.

Chestnut Hill isn’t the only community to receive cease-and-desist letters from the entertainment company. Festival directors around US, including in Aurora, Illinois, and Ithaca, New York, were also told the new guidelines would prohibit much of the Potter-themed activities, which are typically free events.

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It’s all about protecting the trademark.

“Warner Bros is always pleased to learn of the enthusiasm of Harry Potter fans, but we are concerned, and do object, when fan gatherings become a vehicle for unauthorised commercial activity,” the company said.

Fans of the Philadelphia festival took to Twitter to try to get J.K. Rowling to help save the festival. A spokeswoman for the author said she had no comment.

Ithaca’s “Wizarding Weekend” grew from a small celebration in an alleyway in 2015 to a full-fledged Potter-fest hosting over 20,000 fans last year, said Darlynne Overbaugh, the festival’s director. Warner Bros sent her a letter in February.

She said she understands the company’s need to protect the franchise, but she felt like her festival was helping to build it.

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The festival crackdown is not the first time Warner Bros has jeopardised Potter-themed fun. A woman in the UK was sent a cease-and-desist letter over a 2003 Hogwarts-themed dinner party she planned, with a guest list around 30, reports hollywoodreporter.com.

A Los Angeles bookstore called “Whimsic Alley” was sued by the company over its overtly Hogwarts-ian wares, from chocolate frogs to Gryffindor scarves. They settled but the store ended up closing last year.

The opening of Wizarding World at Universal Studios Hollywood worked as a killing curse for the shop.

–IANS

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