By Brent Lang
Warner Bros. is back in the J.K. Rowling business.
The studio is planning a film series that will once again be set in the world of witches and wizards, inspired by Harry Potter's Hogwarts textbook "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them."
"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" will be an original story and will mark Rowling's screenwriting debut. It is planned as the first picture in a new film series. "Harry Potter" is the highest grossing film series of all time having earned more than $7.7 billion worldwide, so the appeal of returning to the scene of the spell is obvious.
In place of a certain bespectacled boy wizard, the series will center on the textbook's fictitious author, Newt Scamander. The film is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the "Harry Potter" series, but an extension of the wizarding world, said Rowling. In place of Hogwarts, there will also be noticeable differences in geography.
"The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the 'Harry Potter' books or seen the films, but Newt's story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry's gets underway," Rowling said in a statement.
Along with the film series, "Fantastic Beasts" will also be developed across the studios video game, consumer products and digital initiatives businesses, providing ample opportunities for the kinds of ancillary revenue streams that make blockbuster film series like "Harry Potter" so widely coveted in Hollywood.
In addition, Warner Bros. will serve as the worldwide TV distributor of J.K. Rowling's upcoming television adaptation for the BBC of "The Casual Vacancy," her best-selling, very adult look at contemporary English society. Production on the miniseries begins in 2014.
Warner Bros. said it will try to find new ways to expand the Potter brand through digital content, video games and these park attractions in the spirit of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, currently queuing up crowds at Universal Parks and Resorts.
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