The studio ignored London mayor Boris Johnson’s plea to site the Wizarding World of Harry Potter over here rather than Florida. Johnson has called for the public to write to Warner Bros, petitioning for a second theme park to be built in London.
Mayor Johnson says it would be “utterly mad” to leave it to Americans “to make money from a great British invention”.
“I appeal to the children of this country and to their Potter-fiend parents to write to Warner Bros and Universal, and perhaps, even, to the great JK herself” Johnson has written in his weekly Daily Telegraph newspaper column.
It sounds as if Mayor Johnson left it too late anyway. He wrote to Warner Bros 18 months ago, well after the studio’s discussions with Universal Studios theme parks were underway. The mayor’s spokesman says Florida made Warner an offer London could not match.
Presumably, Warner Bros also shuddered at the labyrinthine planning permissions you would need to build a theme park in London. The studio wanted to build a theme park in Hillingdon, west London back in the 90s but the plan never came to anything.
Johnson makes the point that JK Rowling is no flash in the pan. Harry Potter is going to be with us for generations. After all, JK Rowling’s books have sold about 400 million copies compared with 250 million for Asterix and 160 million for Tintin. Fellow children’s authors Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter have sold about 100 million and 60 million respectively.
However, it seems to have escaped everybody’s notice that Warner Bros is already planning a £100 million ($144 million) Harry Potter tour at Leavesden Studios, the north London studio where it has shot the movies. Up to 5,000 visitors a day will inspect costumes and tour Hogwarts’ standing sets. The Harry Potter studio tour is still another couple of years away though. Warner, which is buying the studio outright, plans to build new soundstages and production offices, turning Leavesden its European production base.
I can see that not everybody would want to get on the Hogwarts Express to Watford from platform 9¾ at London Euston. Most people only travel north of Watford by mistake. If London is to host a Harry Potter exhibition, then why not house it at the London Film Museum, situated on London’s South Bank? The museum – housed in the old Saatchi Gallery, and City Hall before that — certainly feels Hogwartsian enough with its panelled walls. And it’s exhibited Harry Potter costumes in the past.
Perhaps Mayor Johnson might be better off lobbying a British company that still owns its own IP to create a London theme park. Eon still controls the rights to James Bond, and — apart from a single 007 roller-coaster in America – doesn’t seem to have done anything much when it comes to theme parks. Or how about a BBC Doctor Who theme park, or even BSkyB and Terry Pratchett?