Harry Potter and the Return to Cultural Relevance

Written by Hannah Williams

Did you ever dress up like a wizard for a Harry Potter premiere? Do you remember the completely unadulterated excitement of opening a new Harry Potter book? Or the childlike amazement you felt seeing the magic brought to life on the big screen for the first time?

Magical components of the Harry Potter universe on display | Photo via Creative Commons
Magical components of the Harry Potter universe on display | Photo via Creative Commons

This year has recaptured those feelings for many fans of the series with new additions to the franchise. A second branch of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park opened in Universal Studios Hollywood in April. The “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” play was released in July and the first installment of the spin-off “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” film series comes out later this month.

And, for more devoted fans, there’s been a host of new information released on Pottermore, the official HP site. This includes material about the American wizarding system (to be featured in the “Fantastic Beasts” series), as well a sorting quiz for Ilvermorny, the American wizarding school. A quiz to find your Patronus was added to the site even more recently.

It’s an exciting time to be a Harry Potter fan.

In some of the most recent HP news, it was announced that the original Harry Potter film series would be re-released in IMAX. The moment I heard this, I knew I had to go see one (or all) of them. And so I did.

On October 13, all eight Harry Potter movies were re-released in IMAX for a one-week marathon. While this mini film festival clearly existed primarily as a marketing scheme for the first “Fantastic Beasts” film (out November 18 in IMAX), it was still a fun opportunity.

Instead of seeing the entire series in IMAX, I actually only saw “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” a movie I have seen countless times on DVD. Despite my familiarity with the film, seeing it on the big screen was magical (pun absolutely intended). Movies were made to be seen on the big screen. It’s so easy to be distracted when watching a movie at home, but theaters are free of household distractions. I was captivated the entire time.

Like many people, I’ve been a huge fan of the series since I was very young. I first saw “Sorcerer’s Stone” on DVD when I was maybe five or six. The series has been a lifelong love of mine. Sadly, I never got to experience the early films in theaters by virtue of being too young. I’m glad I finally got the chance to see at least one of the films I missed.

Every time I see any Harry Potter movie, but especially “Sorcerer’s Stone,” I’m always hit with a huge wave nostalgia. Seeing it in IMAX was so immersive. I felt just like the kids in the audience. Amazed and in awe of the film on the vast screen in front of me. Spellbound by the sights and the sounds. IMAX made me feel like I was part of the movie (aka my childhood dream).

It was the closest I’ve ever come to the feeling of seeing the movie for the first time again.

For those of you who didn’t get the chance this time around, Warner Bros. probably isn’t above releasing the films again before the second installment of “Fantastic Beasts” appears in theaters. You’ll just have to wait a little longer.

The continuing relevance of Harry Potter never fails to surprise me. As a fan of the series, I’m glad that J.K. Rowling has decided to expand the universe (though there are those not in favor of extending the universe). While there was certainly a cultural lull after the final film was released in July 2011, love for the series never completely diminished. 2016 seems to be reviving that love in full force for many, as well as introducing the series to a whole new generation.

It seems Harry Potter can never die, nor should he have to.

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