Warner Bros. sends cease and desist for Harry Potter fest, but Muggles can’t stop magic-themed fall fun

First grader David waving his magic wand at the Harry Potter Festival in Chestnut Hill, in 2015. (Natavan Werbock for WHYY)

First grader David waving his magic wand at the Harry Potter Festival in Chestnut Hill, in 2015. (Natavan Werbock for WHYY)

Come October, no wizards will apparate to attend Dumbledore’s Greeting or the Death Eater’s Dance Party on Chestnut Hill’s main drag — not if Warner Bros. has anything to say about it.

The Chestnut Hill Business District will not host what would have been the eighth annual Harry Potter Festival, following a cease and desist letter from Warner Bros. The company retains the rights and licenses for images and names from the massive franchise of movies and books by J. K. Rowling, and has recently cracked down on Harry Potter themed events throughout the world, including a planned festival in Aurora, Illinois, and events at a tea shop in Plymouth, England.

Warner Bros. reached out to the business district in May to share new terms for 2018, “and it quickly became apparent that these were so restrictive that it would not allow us to do the festival as we did in years past,” said Philip Dawson, the executive director of CHBD.

In previous years, Warner Bros. has allowed the festival to go ahead, on the condition that the event was hosted by the business district’s nonprofit arm. They did not give a reason for this year’s change in policy, Dawson said.

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Warner Bros. told Dawson that he would need to acquire a license to produce the festival. But when he asked how to go about that process, they told him that “Warner Bros. is not issuing and has no plans to issue such licenses at this time.”

The business district will still host its popular magic-themed pub crawl and plans to hold some sort of Halloween or fall-themed festival. Dawson is waiting to make an official announcement about the festival until Chestnut Hill College decides whether to go ahead with its annual Quidditch tournament on the weekend in question, which may also be affected by the Warner Bros. rules. For the uninitiated, in the Harry Potter books, Quidditch is a game played on flying brooms, in which players try to hurl balls through hoop-shaped goals while trying not to get knocked off their brooms.

Last year, the festival included the Quidditch Tournament, a Fireball 5k, a sorting hat demonstration, Hedwig’s Hollow Selfie Park, and countless other Potter-themed attractions and events over the course of the October weekend.

Fans have decried the Warner Bros. move online, with many tweeting at J. K. Rowling and begging her to save the festival.




Warner Bros. declined to comment for this article.

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