Beginning in early 2004, Brad Neely’s performance “Wizard People, Dear Reader” – a screening of a muted video of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” with a new, satirical soundtrack by Mr. Neely (“Then Dumbledore leans in. ‘Your dad and I, we go way back. …I loved him so much. He proofread my novel’ “) – was presented at theaters, film festivals and taverns. As the popularity of this as yet unnamed art form grew, supportive theaters began trying to license prints of the film for him to talk over. And that, apparently, is when intellectual playfulness and intellectual property rights collided.
Mr. Neely, a 28-year-old comics artist based in Austin, Tex., was scheduled to perform “Wizard People” at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Boston and the Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan earlier this month – until Warner Brothers called the theaters to object. “To my knowledge,” explains Barbra Brogliatti, a spokeswoman for the studio, “he has not approached us to ask permission.” Mr. Neely said he received a call from the Boston theater, which told him “they weren’t able to show the print outside of how it was originally intended”; an hour later, he said, he learned that the Anthology had also canceled the event. Representatives of the two theaters were reluctant to comment about “Wizard People.” A Coolidge Corner programmer e-mailed, “We canceled it at the request of Warner Brothers, and that’s all I can say.”