The story of a young wizard who, together with his best friends, battles the ultimate evil to save the Wizarding world, has made J.K. Rowling richer than the Queen of England. Will the story of a lovely young woman dominated by an impossibly rich, hot madman make E.L. James richer than J.K. Rowling? Probably not, but she and her fans will have a lot of fun, and sharp operators will make plenty of money while it lasts.
The Harry Potter brand has a $15 billion market value. You can buy Bertie Botts' beans, replica outfits for every Hogwarts House, tour Warner Bros. studios in London, and visit the "Harry Potter Experience" in Orlando, Fla. Wands, toys, glasses, fake scars, Quidditch snitches . . . these are a fraction of available Potter-ish products.
Shades of Grey is just starting out. The films that Universal/Focus paid $5 million for the right to make are still undergoing fantasy casting, with hot gentlemen Ian Somerhalder, Henry Cavill (The Tudors), Alexander Skarsgard, Matt Bomer, and top candidate Ryan Gosling all in the running to portray Christian Grey, the world's most absurdly dominating, improbably sexy multi-billionaire. It's telling that while many gorgeous men are competing to portray Christian Grey on screen, there have been only a few suggestions for his partner, Ana.
Predictably, Twilight's Kristen Stewart has been mentioned, although her Twi-partner Robert Pattinson appears out of the running for the time being. Shades of Grey began as Twilight fan fiction (and "Edward" was doing that stuff to "Bella" — until their names were changed). Other actresses up for the role include Emma Roberts and Lucy Hale. But Justin Bieber's on-again, off-again date Selena Gomez has said no.
I'm guessing that Selena and Justin won't be taking a "make-up" trip to Seattle to enjoy a spicy "Grey" vacation at one of two competing Seattle hotels. Packages include "tastefully wrapped" erotic toys, helicopter rides, and bottles of Christian Grey's favorite champagne. The vintage, 1999 Bollinger La Grande Annee Rose (pink champagne) has nearly doubled in price and increased its wine search ranking over 1,300 places since March.
E.L. James has gone with London-based brand consultant Carolyn Mickler to set up her merchandising empire. The question now is — can Shades of Grey exceed the $15 billion brand value of the Harry Potter books?
Even with the most creative approach, Grey-related products are more limited in nature and age-appeal. James and her agent are considering licensing lingerie/sleepwear, apparel, fragrances, beauty products, bedding, home furnishings, and stationery, jewelry and "adult products."
Outside of formal licensing agreements, however, Shades of Grey is selling more than books and movie rights. Sign-ups for "sugar daddy" dating site Seeking Arrangement have exploded, with nearly 200,000 women advertising they are looking for a "Christian Grey" type of arrangement. NYC-based erotic store Babeland has seen a 30% increase in sales since January, almost all for bondage supplies and equipment. Shades of Grey is growing the economy, one bottle of pink champage, one sugar daddy, and one whip at a time.