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Warner Bros. Finds a Way to Extend Harry Potter Magic

'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' set as new franchise

There was no way Warner Bros. was going to let its enormously productive relationship with J.K. Rowling go when the Harry Potter movies ended, and Thursday’s announcement of a new series of Potter-inspired films seems to be just the way to keep it going for many more years.

Thursday morning’s announcement also underscores that Warner Bros. continues to swing for the fences — even with a new management structure under chief exec Kevin Tsujihara, who was promoted in January to the chief executive slot.

In June, Tsujihara  announced that the movie studio was going to be run, in a unique arrangement, by a three-member committee, with production president Greg Silverman, marketing and distribution president Sue Kroll and New Line Cinema president Toby Emmerich reporting directly to him as movie group chief Jeff Robinov departed.

Since Tsujihara assumed the top slot in March, his degree of involvement in the details of studio business surprised Warner Bros. insiders and industry watchers. The deal with Rowling shows that Tsujihara reflects that involvement, as Rowling singled him out in the announcement Thursday.

“I particularly want to thank Kevin Tsujihara of Warner Bros. for his support in this project, which would not have happened without him. I always said that I would only revisit the wizarding world if I had an idea that I was really excited about, and this is it,” she said in the final sentence.

The eight “Harry Potter” movies – the first in 2001, the final one in 2011 – grossed more than $7 billion worldwide for Warner Bros., making for the highest-grossing film franchise of all time.

Those eight films made Harry Potter a household word and gave worldwide recognition to the cast of characters — such as Albus Dumbledore, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Hagrid and Severus Snape.

For Warner Bros., the Potter series was the key factor in keeping the studio consistently near the top in worldwide grosses for a decade.

The new agreement is a strong signal that Warner Bros. places a premium on such strategy with the highly recognizable title of the new project taken from Potter’s Hogwarts textbook, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

“‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series but an extension of the wizarding world,” Rowling said in a statement.  “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, 70 years before Harry’s gets under way.”

Rowling disclosed Thursday that Warner Bros. execs had come to her with the suggestion of turning “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” into a film.

“I thought it was a fun idea, but the idea of seeing Newt Scamander, the supposed author of ‘Fantastic Beasts,’ realized by another writer was difficult. Having lived for so long in my fictional universe, I feel very protective of it, and I already knew a lot about Newt,” she said. “As hardcore Harry Potter fans will know, I liked him so much that I even married his grandson, Rolf, to one of my favorite characters from the Harry Potter series, Luna Lovegood.”

Rowling disclosed that as  she considered Warners’ proposal, an idea took shape. “That is how I ended up pitching my own idea for a film to Warner Bros.,” she added.

The initial spark for the Potter partnership between Rowling and the studio came in 1997, when producer David Heyman discovered the first book, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.”  Rowling agreed in 1999 to the sale of the film rights for the first four Potter books to Warner Bros., and Heyman went to produce all eight Potter films.

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