J.K. Rowling: Entertainer of the decade
The ''Harry Potter'' author built an empire like no other
As 1999 came to a close, J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter were already household names — as long as those households contained literate children with a voracious appetite for fantasy fiction. Within a year, far more would come to the party. In 2000, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — the fourth book in the British author’s seven-book cycle — ignited a global pop phenomenon that got the attention of all readers, young and young at heart. By 2007, the planet was both eagerly anticipating and deeply dreading the release of the final Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. When it finally arrived, it became clear that Rowling had nailed one of the decade’s greatest artistic achievements: finishing not just bloody well, but brilliantly. Today, Rowling, 44, is a married mother of three who is fabulously wealthy (the second-richest entertainer living in Britain behind Andrew Lloyd Webber, according to London’s Times) and deeply invested in philanthropic work. She’s said to be working on a new novel for children, but our guess is that the kids are gonna have to fight us for it.
Potter by the numbers
The U.S. print run of book 1, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was 50,000 copies.
The U.S. print run of the final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was 12 million copies.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold 8.3 million copies in the U.S. in the first 24 hours alone. That’s 96 copies per second.
If you lined up those 8.3 million copies, you’d end up with a bookshelf longer than the Grand Canyon.
The Harry Potter movies have made roughly $5.4 billion worldwide, more than any other franchise. That averages out to $900 million per film.
It’s as if every person in the world has spent 80 cents on the franchise.