Harry Potter can learn a lesson or two in misdirection from the folks at Warner Bros.
The studio’s efforts to protect its nascent film franchise have sent author J.K. Rowling and her literary agents scrambling for a rumor control spell to counter buzz that an eighth book of the boy wizard’s exploits might be conjured.
“The plan is to have only seven books in the series,” Rowling’s U.K. book agent, Neil Blair of Christopher Little, said Monday. “There is no truth in the rumors” about an eighth.
Confusion over the possibility of an eighth tome seems to have arisen due to Warners’ trademark registration of three extra titles with the U.K. Patent Office in April 2000.
The office’s trademark database confirmed the extra titles registered by WB as “Harry Potter and the Alchemist’s Cell,” “Harry Potter and the Chariots of Light” and “Harry Potter and the Pyramids of Furmat.”
The studio also filed “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the title of the long-delayed fifth installment in the book series, for trademark in October of that year.
The trick is, the first three titles were intended merely as decoys to protect the title of one of the as-yet-unfinished books in the series.
According to the Web site for Bloomsbury Publishing, which handles the Potter books in the U.K., seven books have always been Rowling’s intention, as there is one title for each year that Potter spends at the Hogwarts School.
Warner Bros. acquired the rights to the first four books in the “Harry Potter” series through British producer David Heyman, with an option to acquire all seven.
The studio will exercise its option for the fifth book just prior to its publication. However, Bloomsbury has not received the finished manuscript and will not announce a publication date until it does.
The books are published Stateside by Scholastic, and advance orders have currently put it atop Amazon.com‘s bestseller list.
The most-recent title in the series, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” was published in July 2000. The first three Potter titles were “The Sorcerer’s Stone,” “The Chamber of Secrets” and “The Prisoner of Azkaban.”
Those four books have sold 175 million copies worldwide.
Harry Potter fans have been chomping at the bit for the series’ fifth installment, “Order of the Phoenix.” The first four books arrived almost yearly since the first novel hit bookstores in 1997, but it’s been nearly two years since “Goblet of Fire” was published.
Rowling is expecting a baby this spring and had been embroiled in a plagarism lawsuit, two factors that observers suggest delayed her completion of the next book.
Warners’ first film in the franchise, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” has earned more than $900 million worldwide since its release last November. The second film, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” opens in the U.S. and the U.K. Nov. 15.
Alfonso Cuaron will direct “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” the third movie in the series. Production is scheduled to begin in England in the first quarter of 2003.