Au­thor mines Harry Pot­ter for new magic

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE | FILM - By REUTERS in Los Angeles

The gates to J.K. Rowl­ing’s wiz­ard­ing world are set to re­open with Fan­tas­tic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but the jury is still out on whether the five-movie spinoff will con­jure up the magic that turned Harry Pot­ter into a global en­ter­tain­ment phe­nom­e­non.

With no best-sell­ing books this time around, the story penned by Rowl­ing will test if the young au­di­ence that drove eight Pot­ter films to gross $7 bil­lion world­wide will turn out for a film set 70years be­fore Harry Pot­ter first en­tered Hog­warts school.

Set in New York City in 1926, the new Warner Bros film that will be re­leased world­wide on Nov 18 holds big po­ten­tial. If suc­cess­ful, it could dra­mat­i­cally ex­pand the Pot­ter brand of books, toys, cos­tumes and theme parks as Rowl­ing ge­o­graph­i­cally ex­tends a mag­i­cal world pre­vi­ously con­fined to the United King­dom.

“Spinoffs are usu­ally rip-offs, but in this case, with J.K. Rowl­ing at­tached, I think it’s a great idea,” says Jeff Bock, se­nior box-of­fice an­a­lyst at Ex­hibitor Re­la­tions.

Ten days ahead of re­lease, with no re­views yet, Bock and other an­a­lysts are pre­dict­ing a $75 mil­lion-$100 mil­lion open­ing week­end for the movie in North Amer­ica — about half the gross for the last Pot­ter movie in 2011.

Pub­lished in 2001, Fan­tas­tic Beasts be­gan life as a slim text­book, be­long­ing to Harry Pot­ter, list­ing imag­i­nary crea­tures and il­lus­trated with ba­sic pen and ink draw­ings.

Warner Bros later ap­proached Rowl­ing to turn the book into a movie. She came up with a story that cen­ters on ac­tor Ed­die Red­mayne’s Newt Sca­man­der, a “ma­g­i­zo­ol­o­gist” whose case full of crea­tures es­capes.

The new story was wel­comed by long­time Pot­ter pro­ducer David Hey­man and di­rec­tor David Yates.

“Sure, you don’t have the se­cu­rity of hav­ing 150 mil­lion peo­ple hav­ing read the books. But the ad­van­tage of peo­ple not know­ing the story, not be­ing up­set when some­thing is left out, is a gift,” Hey­man says.

For Yates, the big­gest ap­peal of Fan­tas­tic Beasts is Rowl­ing her­self. “You don’t need big movie stars if you have J.K. Rowl­ing. Her sto­ries are the star,” he says.

While there is no novel tie-in, a book ver­sion of Rowl­ing’s screen­play is cur­rently 12th on the Ama­zon.com best- sell­ers list ahead of its re­lease next week.

The pub­lish­ers at Scholas­tic Inc are re­leas­ing a se­ries of re­lated books and char­ac­ter guides, but the orig­i­nal Fan­tas­tic Beasts will not be reis­sued un­til March 2017, says El­lie Berger, pres­i­dent of Scholas­tic’s Trade di­vi­sion.

Whether there will be books to ac­com­pany fu­ture films will de­pend on Rowl­ing.

“She is a mas­ter sto­ry­teller and she does cre­ate this world, so when she’s ready to have that ex­ist in a book, that’s when she comes to us,” Berger says.

REUTERS

Di­rec­tor David Yates (right) poses with pro­ducer David Hey­man while pro­mot­ing the film Fan­tas­ticBeast­sandWhere­toFindThem in New York.

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