There is a conversation that I have had for years within my hip-hop circle. How important are record sales. Now the purist will tell you initial sales figures are not important at all. If an album is good enough it will eventually find an audience and live on for years to come. The classic example of this is Nas' ‘Illnatic’, an album which would have been considered a commercial flop on its release but is a piece of work that is still influential to this day.
But what of the blockbuster albums? Do we just disregard them? I still contend to this day that you cannot ignore albums like ‘Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘em’ or ‘To the Extreme’. I am not trying to say that the Harry Potter film series are like the much ridiculed MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice albums, but I do believe that us uppity film critics view them with the same embarrassment.
I think the Harry Potter films are some of the most important, if not the most important British film series of our time and yes the money they made are a big reason for why I say this. These films made a stupid amount of money – a mind boggling amount. According to Box Office Mojo, the average Harry Potter film made over 345 million dollars when adjusted for inflation. Again, adjusted for inflation, these films made just under 3 billion dollars. I am pretty sure that there are some countries out there that have less money. These figures don't take into account how much money the films made when they came out on DVD/Blu Ray/Digital.
Why does the amount of money a film makes mean that it is important? It is simply really, it is important because a lot of people must have watched it – some even twice. A lot of the audience could have been kids but a hell of a lot of them must have been grown ass adults.
And what I have found out about the Harry Potter films this past year is that they are small part of bigger machine which seems to be growing every year. There are the books, spin-off books, the toys, the video games and now there is a studio tour of the sets. There film are not only feeding the fat cats but they probably have created jobs for hundreds, maybe thousands of normal people in the England in these tough economic times. Importantly these films kicked off the career of many young British actors – damn, it made some of them millionaires.
And this empire is almost entirely British based. Why does this matter? Every debate I have ever had about British cinema centres around its impotency – the Harry Potter franchise (sorry) dispels this myth. You can have a British idea and create a colossal money making machine out of it right from these small islands and in my opinion that is a powerful message for any young person wanting to go into the industry.
And speaking of young people, it can’t be underestimated how many of them grew up with Harry Potter, either by book form or via film. I remember my sisters and her friends being fanatical about this fictional wizard and I also remember taking the mick out of them. Here I am almost a decade later only discovering what they knew so many years ago. There is a generation of ride-or-die Potterheads that consider these films to be a huge part of their up-brining. Believe me, I know too many of them. They make Bieblers look like fans of Simon and Garfield (that was that other bloke’s name, right? Or was that a cat?)
The point is I feel pretty silly disregarding the whole Potter-verse in my younger days. Nobody knows whether we will still be talking about these 8 films in twenty years time. My humble guess is yes, these films will still resonate in the future.
It is probably not wise to compare these films to the albums of corny hip-hop artist – maybe a better fit would be the Swedish outfit Abba. They are camp and corny as all hell (I don’t think hell is camp, hell is serious but I couldn’t be bothered to think of a better simile) but deep down inside you know they are very good at what they do.