Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Harry and Buckbeak

The phrase “the next Harry Potter” has been used to describe franchises like Twilight and The Hunger Games, but in truth nothing’s quite been able to beat the original Harry Potter. The eight films have collectively grossed $7.7 billion at the worldwide box office, and that’s not even counting the money coming in from the various tie-ins, events, theme park lands, and so on.

It was only a matter of time, then, before Warner Bros. figured out a way to dive back into Harry’s world of wizardry. The studio announced today that it is developing a spinoff feature inspired by the Hogwarts textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and the adventures of its author, Newt Scamander. J.K. Rowling will write the screenplay. ”It is planned as the first picture in a new film series,” says a press release.

Hit the jump for more details.

In a statement, Rowling explained how the project came about.

 It all started when Warner Bros. came to me 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. As hard-core Harry Potter fans will know, I liked him so much that I even married his grandson, Rolf, to one of my favourite characters from the Harry Potter series, Luna Lovegood.

While the new film will take place in the familiar wizarding world, it won’t serve as a direct sequel or prequel to the Harry Potter adventures. “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,” she said.

The experience of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will extend off the screen, as it’ll simultaneously be developed across Warner Bros. video game, consumer-products, and digital initiatives businesses, with enhanced links to Pottermore.com. The film will be the first in a planned series.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was first mentioned in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as required reading for first-year Hogwarts students. In 2001, Rowling made that fictional textbook, along with a few others, a reality. The actual book benefits the charity Comic Relief.

The film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will feature an original story by Rowling, and will mark her screenwriting debut. Since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published in 2007, she has published two unrelated novels, The Casual Vacancy and The Cuckoo’s Calling. The former of those is being adapted as a BBC miniseries, with production slated to begin next year.

Here’s the full press release:

BURBANK, Calif. & LONDON–()–Warner Bros. Entertainment today announced an expanded creative partnership with world-renowned, best-selling author J.K. Rowling. At the center of the partnership is a new film series from Rowling’s world of witches and wizards, inspired by Harry Potter’s Hogwarts textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and the adventures of the book’s fictitious author, Newt Scamander. The announcement was made by Kevin Tsujihara, Chief Executive Officer, Warner Bros. Entertainment.

“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. Set in the wizarding world, the story will feature magical creatures and characters, some of which will be familiar to devoted Harry Potter fans.

“Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, ‘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,” said Rowling. “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.” (Expanded Rowling quote at bottom of release.)

“We are incredibly honored that Jo has chosen to partner with Warner Bros. on this exciting new exploration of the world of wizardry which has been tremendously successful across all of our businesses,” said Tsujihara. “She is an extraordinary writer, who ignited a reading revolution around the world, which then became an unprecedented film phenomenon. We know that audiences will be as excited as we are to see what her brilliant and boundless imagination conjures up for us.”

In addition to the film series, “Fantastic Beasts” will also be developed across the Studio’s video game, consumer products and digital initiatives businesses, including enhanced links with Pottermore.com, Rowling’s digital online experience built around the Harry Potter stories.

The Studio’s expanded partnership with Rowling also covers the continued expansion of its Harry Potter activities, including the wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme parks in conjunction with partner Universal Parks and Resorts (currently in Orlando, FL; opening in Hollywood, CA and Osaka, Japan), digital initiatives (including Pottermore), video games, consumer products and visitor attractions.

In addition, Warner Bros. will serve as the worldwide TV distributor (excluding the U.K.) of J.K. Rowling’s upcoming television adaptation for the BBC of “The Casual Vacancy,” her best-selling first novel aimed at adult audiences. This miniseries begins production in 2014.

The relationship will be managed in London by Neil Blair of The Blair Partnership, Rowling’s literary agency, and Josh Berger, President & Managing Director, Warner Bros. UK, Ireland and Spain, who will serve as Warner Bros.’ chief business contact for all J.K. Rowling initiatives going forward.

Rowling’s expanded quote regarding “Fantastic Beasts” is below:

“It all started when Warner Bros. came to me 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. As hard-core Harry Potter fans will know, I liked him so much that I even married his grandson, Rolf, to one of my favourite characters from the Harry Potter series, Luna Lovegood.

As I considered Warners’ proposal, an idea took shape that I couldn’t dislodge. That is how I ended up pitching my own idea for a film to Warner Bros.

Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, ‘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. 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.

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.”

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