Wild About Harry?

If you’re a parent, a grandparent, an uncle or aunt, or if you’re just nice to kids, chances are you know something about the Harry Potter phenomena.

And while there have been times when Anakin Skywalker or Frodo Baggins seemed to loom larger in their minds, there’s no question that the release of the Harry Potter books has long been an anticipated event in my household. Based on statistics, we aren’t the only ones.

Consider that, in 10 years, the first six books have sold more than 325 million copies in 63 languages. A Nielsen survey says that 28% of Americans 12 and older have read one or more of the series—and 15% have read all six. Combined, the first four Harry Potter films have grossed more than $3.5 billion worldwide. The first film, “Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone,” is the fourth all-time highest-grossing film worldwide. Even if you missed it at the theater, since 2002, the Harry Potter movies have aired on U.S. television a total of 366 times, according to Nielsen. And when the seventh and final book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” is published Saturday, it will have a record-shattering first printing of 12 million copies in the United States.

Now, I’ve never read a single Potter book—too many other things that I WANT to read (and not a few that I need to)—but I’ve always enjoyed how my kids looked forward to their release.

“Kill’ Joys?

However, the plot line that seems to have been consistently pondered and debated before the release of the last several books is an odd one to me—and it’s all about who is going to die (more precisely, who author J.K. Rowling will “kill off’).

A recent Facebook (an online portal mecca for the young(er) poll found that 56% believe that Harry won’t make it out of book seven alive. Fueling the furor have been comments from Rowling that “more than two” characters will die. On the other hand, according to a survey sponsored by Wal-Mart (and conducted by StrategyOne), 58% of American survey respondents are betting on Harry.

Despite the angst over Harry’s fate, 89% of intended purchasers of the new book in the Wal-Mart poll say they plan to read straight through to the end (that’s 608 pages, by the way), rather than skip to the final pages.

And, despite a series of reported “leaks’ on the Internet, and more than one offering on eBay (supposedly the beneficiary of an accidental early delivery from an online order from an unnamed book dealer), Wal-Mart is doing its part to keep the secret. The mammoth retailer has asked more than a million associates and readers to join a pledge that, once Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is released at 12:01 a.m., July 21, the secret of who dies will not be discussed at registers, “in case a customer does not yet know.’ Nearly 17,000 people have taken this vow of silence online at www.makethepledge.net. Additionally, over 50,000 ear plugs are being handed out Friday by Wal-Mart stores where the retailer predicts the largest book sales will happen (1).

Now, if this strikes you as a bit of overkill, it almost certainly is. But even if you’re “mild’ about Harry, isn’t it nice to have this much fuss over a book?

P.S. And yes, I’ll be at one of those 12:00 a.m. “parties’ with my kids.



(1)More than 2,900 Wal-Mart stores will celebrate the midnight July 21 sales release with their own Harry Potter party. Fans who come to participating stores will be sorted into Hogwarts’ houses and given a color-coded wristband that ensures their place in line for the book. Without being bound to a line, customers will be able to enjoy storewide entertainment while waiting for the clock to strike midnight. If you haven’t yet picked out a party, Wal-Mart midnight party locations can be found on www.walmart.com.