David Zaslav Open to a Deal With J.K. Rowling on More ‘Harry Potter’ Content

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Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav mentioned the potential to do “something” with controversial “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling on another title in the Wizarding World franchise “going forward” during the company’s Q3 earnings call Thursday.

The remark was made as part of a lengthy statement about the importance of franchises like DC’s “Superman,” “Batman” and “Aquaman” films, as well as “Lord of the Rings,” “Game of Thrones” and “Sex and the City” content. It was during this answer the the WBD CEO mentioned his interest in “if we can do something with J.K. on ‘Harry Potter’ going forward.”

“We’re going to have a real focus on franchises,” Zaslav said in response to a question from a media analyst about how content will be “different” under Warner Bros. Discovery from the AT&T-run WarnerMedia era and before. “We haven’t had a ‘Superman’ movie in 13 years. We haven’t done a ‘Harry Potter’ movie in 15 years. The DC movies and the ‘Harry Potter’ movies provided a lot of the profits of Warner Bros. Motion Pictures over the last 25 years. So a focus on the franchise — one of the big advantages that we have, ‘House of the Dragon’ is an example of that, ‘Game of Thrones,’ taking advantage of ‘Sex and the City,’ ‘Lord of the Rings,’ we still have the right to do ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies. What are the movies that have brands that are understood and loved everywhere in the world?”

Zaslav continued: “Outside the U.S., most in the aggregate, Europe, Latin America, Asia, have 40% of the theaters that we have here in the U.S. and there is local content. And so when you have a franchise movie, you can often make two to three times the amount of money that you make in the U.S., because you get a slot. And a focus on the big movies that are loved, that are tentpoled, that people are going to leave early from dinner to go to see — and we have a lot of them. Batman, Superman, Aquaman, if we can do something with JK on ‘Harry Potter’ going forward, ‘Lord of the Rings,’ what are we doing with ‘Game of Thrones’? What are we doing with a lot of the big franchises that we have? We’re focused on franchises.”

Rowling first ignited controversy in June 2020 when she posted a series of comments to Twitter in which she argued that discussing gender identity negates biological sex. “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction,” the author wrote. “If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased.” The author continued to double down on this same position in the years that followed.

Earlier this year, Rowling feuded online with Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, over the country’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which aims to simplify the means by which a transgender person can legally change their gender through obtaining a gender recognition certificate. The certificate allows a trans person to receive a new birth certificate with their correct gender.

Many “Harry Potter” actors have publicly opposed Rowling. Emma Watson responded to the author’s initial anti-trans comments by writing on Twitter, “I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are.” Daniel Radcliffe published an open letter proclaiming, “Transgender women are women.” Radcliffe recently said that speaking out against Rowling in 2020 was important.

There are no active discussions currently with Rowling about developing another “Harry Potter” movie, according to a source at the studio.

There is also currently nothing in “the Wizarding World” in active development at Warner Bros., inclusive of both the “Harry Potter” franchise and “Fantastic Beasts” IP.

The most recently released content based on Rowling IP from Warner Bros. was the third “Fantastic Beasts” film, “The Secrets of Dumbledore,” in July. That was preceded by a “Harry Potter” reunion special, “Return to Hogwarts,” that launched on HBO Max last December. Warner Bros. hast not produced a “Harry Potter” film since the original franchise ended with “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2” in 2011.

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