Rennes – In Rennes, this unfailing passion for Harry Potter

The best spells take a long time to wear off. 25 years after its creation under the pen of JK Rowling, Harry Potter continues to seduce. And especially in Rennes. The Breton capital has one of the fifteen French Quidditch teams, which trains every Wednesday at Les Gayeulles. For Muggles who have forgotten that this is a sport from the universe of the young bespectacled wizard, the Ciné TNB offers a Harry Potter marathon from December 20 to 23, with two films a day. “Come in disguise”, enjoins the site, as if the fans were not already ironing their most beautiful black cape.

At the Comptoir du Sorcier, rue du Maréchal-Joffre, the saleswomen are sorry not to be able to come. “We have to work! It doesn’t stop here.” The store, opened in 2019 in place of a record store, only sells Harry Potter branded items. A monomania that is usually found in the official shops of luxury brands or football teams. A sign of the marketing know-how of the rights holders who share the fruits of the saga. And their ability to renew their products over several generations. The faithful of the first hour are now in their forties and have the means to sacrifice to their acute collection. Some come with their children, to whom they have transmitted their passion.

The Rennes Quidditch team, the Hermines, trains every Wednesday at Les Gayeulles. Sticks replace flying brooms. (Justine Vallee)

Hufflepuff Town

“People need to dream, given the current context,” says Caroline, store manager with red hair and a glibness as irresistible as an Imperium spell. The shelves are overflowing with stuffed owls, backpacks, slippers, Lego, posters, feathers, sweets… Not to mention the complete uniform of the Hogwarts school of witchcraft. For the collection baguette, count 40 €. The most maraboutic will be able to afford the life-size replica of Harry Potter, at 3,999 euros. “It is on sale in the second store that we have just opened, in Hillion in the Côtes-d’Armor”.

“In Rennes, the most represented house is Poufsouffle! »

In another life, Caroline was a department manager for a supermarket and a caretaker of exotic pets. “I was already with magical creatures!” “, jokes the one who “came to help out a Christmas two years ago” and who never left. Only prerequisite for the job: knowing the series on the fingertips (not necessarily hooked). “It’s difficult to work at the Comptoir des Sorciers if you’re not a fan. Here, people meet, find each other. They come looking for an experience. When he creates his customer account, everyone must indicate his house of belonging among the four that account Hogwarts. “In Rennes, the most represented is Poufsouffle! That is to say, the clan of bon vivants – that suits us well.

The manager and a store employee "The Wizards' Counter" In Rennes (35) *** Local Caption *** The manager and an employee of the store "The Wizards' Counter" Reindeer
The manager and an employee of the store “Le Comptoir des Sorciers” in Rennes, themselves great “Potterheads”. (David Brunett)

Tattoo and snake

Alexia, 30, works two blocks from the Comptoir des Sorciers. Harry Potter, she has it in her skin. Literally. She got a tattoo of a symbol related to the Deathly Hallows, iconic items from the franchise. “I did it discreetly, you don’t see what it is at first glance”. His collection of by-products includes a 1,000-piece puzzle, a niffler plush (a kind of supernatural platypus with a kleptomaniac tendency), various top-of-the-range figurines… His snake is a real one. “The Chamber of Secrets (second film, released in 2002) influenced my passion for reptiles when I was little,” she explains, scrolling through photos of her adorable red-eyed colubrid on her phone. “I think Harry Potter gave a lot of young people an escape from their everyday lives. We were the same age as the actors, we grew up with them. This universe reminds them of our adolescence.

“The Chamber of Secrets influenced my passion for reptiles”

Rennes has other haunts for aficionados. Rue Saint-Melaine, the It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere tea room cultivates a British atmosphere right down to its pastries menu. Last year, for Halloween, the establishment redecorated: letters of admission to Hogwarts suspended from the ceiling, a special potions cabinet of curiosities… The fans still remember it. Not far from there, in Place Sainte-Anne, the Queen & King confectionery sells batches of sugared almonds drawn from the imagination of JK Rowling. Last detail proving that the Breton capital was touched by the magic wand? Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger in the cinema, has worked since 2020 as an administrator for the Kering group, owned by Rennais François-Henri Pinault, son of the owner of Stade Rennais.

A “school of magic” in Ille-et-Vilaine

At the end of 2022, Ille-et-Vilaine placed itself on the map of all French fans when Château Rocher-Portail, near Fougères, launched an “immersive experience” called The New School of Sorcerers. During the All Saints holidays, 13,000 visitors immersed themselves in a universe very inspired by Harry Potter, with costumed actors, talking paintings, wand-making lessons… All in a historic setting. Count €28.50 for the afternoon of 1h30, €99.50 for the evening with a meal. Small problem: the castellan, Manuel Roussel, does not have the official license. He claims to have received several angry letters from Warner, the production company which already stages dedicated amusement parks.

The Portal Rock, a "school of magic" opened near Fougères.
Le Rocher Portail, a “school of magic”, has opened near Fougères. (Rock Portal Manuel ROUSSEL)

In his very first adventure, Harry Potter had to protect the Philosopher’s Stone, capable of changing metal into gold. In the real world, the owners of the brand jealously guard their magic formula which transmutes the paper of books into precious greenbacks. In 2016, the magazine Forbes, quoted by Le Figaro, estimated that the brand represented a global business of 14 billion euros… To avoid a lawsuit, the castle Rocher-Portail therefore purged its animations of any element subject to copyright. Faced with the general enthusiasm, the manager plans to renew the experience next summer.

For the time being, Warner has not reacted, probably in no hurry to alienate its community of wizards little concerned with big money stories. “The relationships that Harry Potter fans have with the actors of the cultural industries of the saga are conflicting and ambiguous, analyzes Maureen Simon-Dou, from Celsa-Sorbonne University, in a dedicated thesis. “On the one hand, (they) reject, even despise industrialists while, on the other, they need these same entities so that their favorite franchise can grow and develop. (…) Without their investment and support, manufacturers would encounter difficulties in bringing the saga to life”. A delicate alchemy to maintain, so that the spell lasts.

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Rennes – In Rennes, this unfailing passion for Harry Potter

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