The “Harry Potter” franchise took J.K. Rowling on a whirlwind ride from desperate poverty to the world’s first billionaire author — and her fortune continues to grow.
Rowling ranked as No. 3 on Forbes’ Celebrity 100 list in 2017 thanks to earnings from her co-written stage play, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”; her “Harry Potter” attractions at Universal Studios; and the latest movie in the “Harry Potter” universe, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” for which she wrote the screenplay. Rowling, who turns 53 on July 31, can probably afford to celebrate her birthday however she wants.
- Net worth: $1 billion
- Age: 52
- Primary source of wealth: Books
- Career highlights: Winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the British Book Awards and recipient of an Order of the British Empire
Click through to find out how Rowling built her incredible fortune.
JK Rowling Net Worth: $1B
In 2004, Guinness World Records crowned J.K. Rowling as history’s first billionaire author and one of only five self-made female billionaires. Years before, however, the single mother was living on welfare, spending her time writing in coffee shops in Edinburgh, Scotland, while her daughter slept beside her.
Rowling spent six years working on the manuscript that became “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” and that work was sent to 12 publishers before it was picked up, according to Time. Its first-print run of 500 copies was primarily distributed to libraries — and Rowling was offered an estimated $2,250 advance from publisher Bloomsbury for the book.
But that first paycheck is now just a drop in the bucket of Rowling’s earnings from the seven “Harry Potter” books, plus film and merchandising deals: Her net worth is now $1 billion, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
'Harry Potter' Books
As of February 2018, 500 million “Harry Potter” books had been sold — which means, on average, one in every 15 people in the world owns a “Harry Potter” book. “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” — released as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in the U.S. — remains the best-selling book of the seven in the series. However, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” — the last book in the series — is the fastest-selling fiction book of all time. The book sold 11 million copies in its first 24 hours of sale, The New York Times reported.
In 2016, J.K. Rowling collaborated with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany to write a stage play, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two.” Though technically not a “Harry Potter” book, it was published as a script and sold 4.1 million copies that year.
'Harry Potter' Movies
Eight “Harry Potter” films have been released and remain some of the top-grossing book-to-film adaptations of all time. The biggest box-office hit of the franchise, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” brought in $1.34 billion worldwide on its own, according to Box Office Mojo. Take a look at the films’ global box-office grosses:
- “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001): $974.76 million worldwide
- “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” (2002): $878.98 million worldwide
- “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004): $796.69 million worldwide
- “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (2005): $896.91 million worldwide
- “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (2007): $939.89 million worldwide
- “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” (2009): $934.42 million worldwide
- “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” (2010): $960.28 million worldwide
- “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” (2011): $1.34 billion worldwide
With domestic box-office sales of $2.39 billion, as reported by Box Office Mojo, the “Harry Potter” films make up the third-most successful movie franchise in the U.S., behind only the Marvel Cinematic Universe and “Star Wars.” Worldwide, the movies have brought in $7.72 billion.
'Fantastic Beasts' Movies
Rowling published “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” — based off of the title of a textbook mentioned in the “Harry Potter” novels — in March 2001. The book was adapted for the big screen in 2016, and went on to earn over $814 million in box offices worldwide.
Thanks to the first “Fantastic Beasts” film’s success, four sequel movies are planned for the “Harry Potter” spinoff. The next in the series, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” is due out on Nov. 16, 2018.
'Harry Potter' West End and Broadway Productions
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two” is now playing at the Palace Theatre in London and at the Lyric Theater in New York, and it will be playing at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne, Australia, in 2019. The play received six Tony Awards, including for Best Play in 2018, and it broke records for being the highest single-week gross reported by a non-musical in Broadway history, with over $2 million in ticket sales, Variety reported.
“Harry Potter” is now a $25 billion franchise, CNBC reported in 2017. That astounding figure breaks down to over $7 billion at the box office, $7.7 billion in book sales, $7.3 billion in toy sales, $2 billion in DVD sales and $600 million in rentals.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando opened in 2010, and the Universal Studios Hollywood location followed in 2016 — both of which help bring Potter fans’ dreams to life. Both Worlds feature attractions, shows, shopping destinations and dining halls, where you can pick up a wand, quench your thirst with Butterbeer and more. Tickets for the Hollywood opening sold out online — even though prices were steep at $115 a person, Fox News reported.
Non-'Harry Potter' Books
In addition to the “Harry Potter” novels and spinoff books, Rowling published “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” in 2008 — which became the fastest-selling book that year, raising millions for charity, The Guardian reported — and “The Casual Vacancy” in 2012. Rowling also published three crime novels under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith: “The Cuckoo’s Calling” (2013), “The Silkworm” (2014) and “Career of Evil” (2015). It was not originally known that “The Cuckoo’s Calling” was written by Rowling, and when it was revealed that she was the author, sales surged by 150,000 percent, NewStatesman reported.
“The Casual Vacancy” was adapted for television by the BBC in 2015, and her crime stories are currently being adapted into a new television series for BBC One.
Click through to read more about the highest-grossing movies you didn’t know were books.
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Michael Galvis contributed to the reporting for this article.