When Scholastic first announced they would be releasing the script to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in book form, the managers of Austin’s largest independent bookstore BookPeople resolved they would not do a midnight release party — those communal gatherings that used to be a staple of new J.K. Rowling books. And yet, less than two days away from the book’s release at midnight on July 31, preparations are in full swing for a Saturday night parking lot party at BookPeople, complete with food trucks and Diagon Alley facades and wizard costumes for the staff. Just like the old days.
“The announcement was that it was a play in script form, we weren’t sure how it was going to be received,” BookPeople manager Bryan Samsone tells EW. “But it became pretty apparent quickly after word came out that people still wanted to congregate together to celebrate Harry Potter, dress up, and relive all these memories that formed their childhood.”
Demand is indeed high for the Cursed Child book. Samsone says BookPeople has already sold out of their first round of book vouchers, and distributors as big as Barnes & Noble and Amazon have reported record-breaking preorder numbers unseen since Harry’s heyday. It’s been almost 10 years since the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and though the books’ fans have stayed strong thanks to communities like Pottermore, the excitement for more Potter adventures is palpable — even if this book, a script to the play currently in previews on London’s West End, is a little different than the original novels.
“It’s different, but I think people are just really excited to continue to play within the world of Harry Potter,” says Whitney Hu, communications director for New York independent bookstore The Strand. “I’ve seen so many people excited to break out their old robes from high school.”
Customers aren’t the only ones excited for Cursed Child. Samsone says some former BookPeople employees who worked the old midnight releases are coming back to volunteer this one and teach the new kids the ropes. Karen Kettells, the shipping manager at Square Books in Oxford, Miss., is supervising the store’s Cursed Child event, and personally hand-crafted 163 Hogwarts-style “floating candles” for the party.
“I’m personally very excited because I didn’t think I would be able to celebrate a Harry Potter party again in this way,” Kettells says. “I worked at Barnes & Noble for the last Harry Potter book, and I thought that was a big screaming deal. We finally get to do it again.”
John Valentine, co-owner of Regulator Bookshop in Durham, North Carolina, says that anticipation for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has caused a spike in sales for the earlier books, as younger readers catch up on the stories they’ve missed. The new book, after all, arrives in a world where many of the original books’ fans have grown up. Some even have children of their own, and have begun the work of passing on their culture to the next generation. Luckily, they now have a way to introduce those new fans to midnight book releases, an essential component of the original Harry Potter experience.
“It’s so contagious because the parents who grew up with those books are now introducing them and reading them to their children and their children are enjoying it,” Kettells says. “Much in the Star Wars way. I was raised on Star Wars and this universe is also playing out that same way. It’s a lifelong family love that you pass on. These books were popular when I was younger, and I thought that were over now, but they’re not!”