Culture

The 40-year-old Harry Potter grossed 220 million at the box office in China again

The poster of the Harry Potter movie was re-shown in China with the words “Friends get together and relive childhood memories”.
via weibo

Harry Potter is a fantasy novel written by British writer J. K. Rowling, which tells the story of orphan Harry’s life and adventure when he discovered that his wizard identity had been incorporated into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for six years at the age of 11. 

According to the settings in the novel, Harry James Potter, as the protagonist, was born on July 31, 1980. If he lived in the real world, he would be 40 years old this year. 

In China, cinemas have been closed for six months because of the COVID-19 epidemic. At the end of July, Chinese cinemas were allowed to reopen, and a series of super-popular old films were rereleased in cinemas as a way to attract audiences back to cinemas to boost the economy. 

The 4K 3D reproduction of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is one of these films, and it is the best performer of these films. The film was re-released on Chinese mainland on August 13 and grossed more than 220 million yuan in half a month, according to the Beijing News. 

Audiences are waiting for the film to begin at a cinema in Jinan. Due to the impact of epidemic prevention and control measures, cinemas can only sell 30% of the seats.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first film in the series, was first released on Chinese mainland in November 2001. 

The Chinese teenagers who first became fans of the Harry Potter series because of the film are now middle-aged. They excitedly brought their children into the cinema, making it possible for them to become new fans of Harry Potter

History is like a cycle. Although Harry Potter and his first fans in China have reached middle age, the popularity of the series in China has not cooled down at all, but has become the collective memory of a generation of Chinese people after the reform and opening up.

Harry Potter enters China

The popularity of Harry Potter in China is a miracle. 

Before Harry Potter series was published in China, similar works like the Legend of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings had been published in China. Despite the good results, it is far from causing as much frenzy as Harry Potter

The Harry Potter novel was first published on Chinese mainland in August 2000, three years after the English version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was first published. 

The People’s Literature Publishing House of China published the first three works of the series at one time that year. The first printing volume of these three books was 600,000 copies, each of which was 200,000. This was a very risky number for the Chinese market at that time. Generally speaking, it takes years for 200,000 books to be sold.

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Wang Ruiqin, a Chinese publisher who participated in the introduction of Harry Potter, recalled that she had a relationship with J.K. Rowling’s agent, Christopher Little, offered a step-by-step tax strategy when discussing the introduction of the Harry Potter novels. 

1 to 10, 000 volumes is a price level for J.K Rowling, 10, 000 to 30, 000 is another one, and 30, 000 to 100,000 is another one too. Each level, J.K. Rowling will share different incomes. The offer stalls up to 1 million copies. 

Nie Zhenning, then president of the People’s Literature Publishing House, even laughed at her for being too cautious because few books sold 1 million copies in China. “If this book can really sell 1 million copies, you might as well give them all the income.” 

But in fact, the media revealed to Nie Zhanning in an interview a few years later that the three books sold 77 million yuan in gross sales in two years, with more than 5 million copies printed. This has set a record for book sales since the founding of the people’s Republic of China.

The sales miracle of Harry Potter novels in China is largely due to the success of the film. In those days, China’s own commercial film industry was still in its early stages, and most films from Hollywood were aimed at adult audiences. 

The record of Harry Potter’s premiere in China in 2002, via AP

The film “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was released on Chinese mainland in 2002 and grossed 55.54 million yuan at the box office, which seems like a small number now, but it was the third best-selling film in China that year. Considering that almost all of these box offices were contributed by children, it meant that it affected almost all the children in China at that time. 

Over the next decade, the release of every new film and novel in the series will cause a sensation in China. In 2007, the last book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, sold 12,500 copies on the day it was released, making it the top one-day seller in China’s publishing history.

In 2017, China’s Ministry of Education added the Harry Potter novels to the list of recommendations for Chinese primary and secondary school students. This means that millions of primary and secondary school students in China will be exposed to this series of novels in their holiday homework. 

This book list is actually an administrative order, and its goal is to promote Chinese primary and secondary school students to improve their Chinese language proficiency by reading more excellent literary works outside of school. Most of the works on this list are Chinese local works, and a small number of overseas works are also literary classics with a hundred-year history. 

It is inconceivable that the Harry Potter series, which was first published only 20 years ago, has entered this list.

Wen Rumin, professor of Chinese at Peking University and editor of this series, said in an interview that the Harry Potter series is excellent in storytelling, theme and literature:

Its stories are reasonable and imaginative, and can attract most young people to read; its themes include life and death, love and hate, poverty and wealth, destiny and struggle, justice and conspiracy; and its text is highly readable. The author turns complex themes and stories into a language that is easy for children to understand, while at the same time possessing many skills of film literature.

The fans circle of Harry Potter in China

Now, you have understood the great success of Harry Potter in China as a commercial work. 

But in fact, it is far from a commercial work in the eyes of this generation of young and middle-aged people in China. 

To some extent, its status is like the 1937 Disney version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which defines the theme image of a culture in the minds of the Chinese people. 

This culture is the “fantasy world with Europe as the center“. 

Outside China, the center of this cultural circle is often the Lord of the Rings. The films of the Lord of the Rings series are slightly dark and have a different orientation from the children’s literature attribute of the original novel. As a result, the Lord of the Rings series has not been as successful as Harry Potter as a cultural symbol in China 

For many Chinese, Harry Potter is the starting point for their exposure to the fantasy world of Western. They learned about the existence of works such as the Lord of the Rings and Dragonlance series because they came into contact with Harry Potter.

In the past, there were more than 10 Harry Potter fan forums in China, with the rise of the mobile Internet. Chinese Harry Potter fans have mainly moved to China Weibo and Post bars(贴吧). Fans have been talking for decades about details in Harry Potter novels and movies, as well as stories about the entire wizarding world. 

Before the end of the series of novels, the threshold for becoming a “senior Harry Potter fan” is whether you have read the English version of the Harry Potter novel. For example, once a while, Chinese Harry Potter fans questioned a serious mistake in their translation by the people’s Literature Publishing House. 

In the official Chinese version of Harry Potter novels, only Young Sirius Black adopts the method of sense-for-sense translation. Other members of the Black family, such as Regulus, Bellatrix and Lestrange, have adopted the transliteration method, and Chinese readers who are not familiar with English will not be able to find that their names also represent some constellations. 

As a result, Ma Ainong, the Chinese translator of Harry Potter, has been questioned by Chinese Harry Potter fans on many occasions.

In fact, this is because the translator has not been able to read the following works when translating the first novel of Harry Potter. The name Young Sirius Black first appeared, and the translator believes that the sense-for-sense translation of the constellation name can better reflect the personality of the character. On the other hand, when the other characters of the Black family appear on the stage, the translators are not aware of their relationship with Young Sirius in time, so they adopt different translation methods.

This kind of discussion has lasted for 20 years since the beginning of publication.

As these core fans grow older, so does their spending power. When Fantastic Beasts, a spin-off of Harry Potter, was released on Chinese mainland in 2016 and 2018, moviegoers dressed in wizard hats, wands and even wizard robes could be seen everywhere near the cinema. Although these audiences are no longer teenagers, but most of them are middle-aged, their enthusiasm for this series has never abated.

Outside the core fan group, Chinese netizens apply Harry Potter‘s characters, plots and prop nouns to all kinds of online meme as if they were using public material. 

In this video, Severus Snape is replaced by Shen Teng, Lucius Malfoy and replaced by Li Jiahang. Source: bilibili.com

For example, Shen Teng, a well-known middle-aged Chinese comedian, was suddenly found to be similar to Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movie. A Chinese Harry Potter fan used Deep Fake technology to replace the actor’s face with the scene of Snape in the Harry Potter movie. The video has been viewed 1.51 million times on bilibili, a Chinese video website. 

The funny video, which replaces the wand from the Harry Potter movie with a gun, has been retweeted and viewed more than 4 million times on the Chinese social network Weibo. 

Although these videos may be suspected of infringement and differ from the positioning of the original Harry Potter’s works. But in China, being so spoofed and getting such a broadcast is a symbol of the “everlasting prosperity” of the work. Generally speaking, only classic Chinese TV series such as Journey to the West and My Fair Princess will continue to produce online Meme for decades.

Universal Studios Resort in Beijing, which will open in May 2021, is Universal Studios’ first amusement park in China, and the wizarding world of Harry Potter will be one of its five main scenic spots. At the same time, according to social media, it is also the most anticipated scenic spot for Chinese tourists. 

China’s first Universal Studios will open in May 2021. The wizarding world of Harry Potter will be one of its five main scenic spots. At the same time, according to social media, it is also the most anticipated scenic spot for Chinese tourists. Universal Studios of China is already planning to build the second phase of the project, and Harry Potter is still a key theme in the second phase of the project. 

Predictably, with the re-broadcast of the Harry Potter films in Chinese cinemas and the opening of Universal Studios. The magic story of Harry Potter in China will continue.

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