More than two years after the last film in the eight-picture series about the iconic boy wizard hit theaters, Warner Bros. announced Thursday that it will release a "Harry Potter" spinoff of sorts. Rowling is set to pen her first screenplay, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," based on a 42-page book the author wrote in 2001 to accompany her "Harry Potter" series.
In the first "Harry Potter" novel, the protagonist studied a textbook called "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" while at his Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Rowling's new film will center on a character named Newt Scamander, who wrote that schoolbook, and will be set in New York 70 years pre-Potter. The movie will also feature some of the otherworldly creatures from the Potter franchise, and "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," Rowling said in a statement.
The author is describing the new project as "an extension of the wizarding world" — not a sequel or prequel to "Potter." Rowling, 48, said that when Warner Bros. proposed turning "Fantastic Beasts" into a film, she felt uncomfortable with the idea of another writer signing on to the project when she was so familiar with the "fictional universe."
"I feel very protective of it, and I already knew a lot about Newt," she said. "As hard-core 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 has long been cagey about whether she would return to the world of Potter. In 2010, she told
The Potter books have sold more than 450 million copies worldwide, while the film series has grossed more than $7.7 billion globally. The movie franchise proved to be so popular that it spawned theme parks in Orlando, Fla.,