The Harry Potter books were the coming of age story for many of today's young adults. Each entry in the series was structured around an academic year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and young Harry's struggles with growing pains were mixed in with battles against deadly threats and adult foes. As the books went on, the intense focus on matters such as which of Hogwarts' scholastic factions was going to win the House Cup or the Quidditch Cup gave way to matters of life, death, romance, qualifications, careers and student rebellion - until the final entry in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in which Harry, Ron and Hermione break away from the school entirely and go on the run, sacrificing their final year of education in favor of trying to save the wizarding world from tyranny and destruction.
The Harry Potter series is a near-perfect chronicle of youth (albeit a rather strange youth), complete with all its awkwardness and humiliation and shifting priorities. From the publication of the first book in 1997 to the release of the final movie in 2011, children and adults all over the world followed Harry from the very early days of puberty to his emergence as an adult. For kids who grew up alongside Harry, he was a friend, and parents who read the books to their kids (or played the audiobooks on long car journeys) got equally invested.
So, what now?
It's pretty much academic to debate whether or not the Harry Potter franchise should be continued. The films have collectively grossed over $7.7 billion worldwide, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the eighth highest-grossing movie of all time, and the books are the best-selling series of novels in history with over 450 million copies sold. If the fans' collective love for the property wasn't enough to keep it alive, the financial incentive certainly would be.
Yet now that almost five years have passed since the release of the last Harry Potter movie - five extremely transformative years for Hollywood - people have grown used to cinematic scenery that doesn't include Harry and his friends. It's easy to forget that many of the franchises around today - The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner - are part of a trend that Harry Potter pushed into hyperdrive: a search for the next young adult saga that could appeal to children, teenagers and adults alike. But just because Harry's coming of age is complete, it doesn't mean the wizarding world is done with Hollywood just yet.
Thanks to author J.K. Rowling, the world and characters of the Harry Potter novels have now expanded far beyond the contents of the seven main novels. In addition to smaller books such as Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Rowling has also published a plethora of short stories and additional insights via the official website Pottermore. Here fans can learn about the two great loves of Professor McGonagall's life, what the first meeting between the Potters and the Dursleys was like, and - most recently - details about magic schools in other countries.
Rowling has also been interviewed so many times that additional details have trickled out over time - perhaps the most famous example being the posthumous reveal that Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore was gay. Of course, all of this is supplementary information to the original seven Harry Potter novels; the real challenge for the franchise moving forward is creating entirely new stories for people to get invested in. Currently there are two of these, one of which represents the further adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione, and another which moves entirely away from the familiar characters and stories that audiences already know.
The former is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a two-part stage play coming to London's West End this summer, which picks up 19 years after the battle against Voldemort and focuses both on the familiar hero from the books and his youngest son, Albus Severus Potter. Rowling has said that she believes theater was the best medium for the story, rather than a new novel, though we won't write off the possibility of an eventual film adaptation just yet. Aside from the main adult roles being cast - Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni and Paul Thornley as Harry, Hermione and Ron, respectively - little else is known about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. However, the fact that Rowling was willing to collaborate on an eighth story in the Harry Potter series does suggest that the author is not done with the character just yet. More on that later...