[After saving the wizarding world and selling more than 400 million books in 68 languages, everyone knows the story of the boy who lived. Now he’s an adult who’s still dealing with the darkness in his past.]
The market for plays, publishing industry insiders say, is near nonexistent, perhaps with the exception of Shakespeare. But that appears set to change this weekend, when the book for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two” is released at midnight Sunday.
“Cursed Child,” the script of the play currently on stage on London’s West End, is effectively the eighth book in the massively popular series — and it’s seen as a sure hit.
“From the minute the book was announced, it was Barnes & Nobles’ belief that everyone was going to want this book, regardless of the format,” said Mary Amicucci, chief merchandising officer at Barnes & Noble Inc. BKS, +1.00% “We never considered the format an obstacle for this book.”
“It’s a Harry Potter book first,” Amicucci said, “and a script book second.”
Barnes & Noble said Monday that “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is the book retailer’s most preordered book since 2007’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” The book was written by British author Jack Thorne based on a story by Thorne, J.K. Rowling and the play’s director John Tiffany, it will be sold digitally for $14.99 and $17.99 for hardcover.
“Deathly Hallows,” then last book in the series, sold 8.3 million copies in 24 hours in the U.S., according to publisher Scholastic Corp. SCHL, -0.15% Sales reportedly hit 44 million world-wide in a year.
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Generally speaking, plays in book form don’t sell like ”Cursed Child” is expected to. The main U.S. market for published stage works is academia — teachers and students, typically for high school and college drama courses, according to Christopher Gould, who publishes and licenses the stage rights of American plays at Broadway Play Publishing Inc.
And still-in-theatres stage productions generally aren’t sold as books, particularly when the play is still new. The script for the hit musical “Hamilton,” for example, was first published in the book “Hamilton: The Revolution,” which was released in April. (Its soundtrack, meanwhile, went platinum.)
Major book publishers generally haven’t printed plays for decades, according to Gould.
“In America, for whatever reason, drama isn’t really considered literature,” said Gould. “A lot of people have a knee-jerk reaction when it comes to reading a play. Like, ‘I don’t know how to read this.’”
For Scholastic, printing and marketing a play is something new, according to president of Trade Publishing Ellie Berger. (It does print some plays in its classroom magazines, which are bought by teachers and schools for class subscriptions.)
“We don’t have experience with this exact thing, but ‘Harry Potter is a completely different story,” Berger said. “J.K. Rowling has created such a vivid world that when you read this book in script form it doesn’t change the story or the world. It doesn’t feel like a different experience.”
Script or not, people are excited to read the next installment in the “Harry Potter” series. Set 19 years after the final battle of Hogwarts, the play sees Harry — overworked at the Ministry of Magic — grappling with his past as his youngest son struggles under the weight of the his family legacy. Since it’s a “Harry Potter” book, darkness follows.
The last book was published nine years ago, and the final film in the series was released five years ago. But “Harry Potter” fervor is still palpable — in large part because of the sustained push to keep the magic alive.
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J.K. Rowling’s film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” tells a new story from the wizarding world, and premieres in November. Watch a Pottermore video about the Hogwarts of America, Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Photo/Video: Pottermore
Not a year has gone by since the story came to its last end that it wasn’t expanded upon in some way. Rowling launched the site Pottermore in 2011, using it to give fans updates, new stories and expanded the world of “Harry Potter.”
Time Warner Inc.’s TWX, -1.18% film division Warner Bros., which has been home to all eight “Harry Potter” movies, made it known in 2014 it was releasing the first film in a trilogy adaptation of Rowling’s 2001 book “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” The film by the same name comes out Nov. 18.
There have been 12 videogames, and Universal Studios, owned by Comcast Corp. CMCSA, -1.05% has built and expanded its The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park attractions in Orlando, Japan and, most recently, Hollywood.
Scholastic has also focused on perpetuating the brand, releasing coloring books and illustrated versions of the “Harry Potter” series.
Now the “Harry Potter” book in play form is igniting the frenzy all over again.
Bookstores across the country are gearing up for release events. The Strand, an independent bookstore in New York City, is hosting its first-ever midnight release party for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”
“We’re expecting like 300 to 500 people,” said Whitney Hu, the Strand’s communications director. “People are just so excited, they’ll probably have a quarter-life crisis once it actually comes out. Once you create a world like ‘Harry Potter,’ people just want to continue to live in it.”