I finally watched/listened to Wizard People, Dear Readers last night, Brad Neely’s unauthorized alternative narration to the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone movie. It’s synched to the movie — turn the sound on your DVD low (so you still hear the music) and hit play on both at the same time. The style is less MST3K and more like hearing a narration of the movie by an earnest but clueless poet-turned-subtitle-writer. It’s also surprisingly funny.
The film/soundtrack has been out for almost a year, but according to Stay Free! Daily Warner Brothers has just recently started strong-arming theaters to cancel screenings, threatening to cut off all ties with venues that show it. Presumably they’re threatening boycott instead of copyright suit because, as a parody, WPDR is probably but not certainly legal — and they’d rather keep that uncertainty if possible. Why they’re actively trying to stifle something that makes them money though is a little of a mystery — after all, you can’t watch WPDR without purchasing the film rights for Harry Potter (in my case, a whopping $14.99 for the DVD just to watch it with the sound turned off!). I’ve no great insight into the minds of Warner Brothers, but I can imagine three possible reasons they want to crush this movement, ranked in order of likelihood:
- Studios make their box-office money on new releases, not so much second-run. The more fans make their own stuff based on old works the less oxygen (movie-goer attention, theater time, press, etc.) will go to their new releases. This is just a way to kill off another potential competing genre while it’s still in its infancy.
- As one of the winners in the “old media” model, WB executives fear change. They figure it’s better to shut down anything new than to see if it might actually make them more money in the long run.
- Maybe J.K. Rowling or some other important person made a fuss?