“Fantastic Beasts” becomes the first title to land on the date — five days before Disney opens an untitled animated film.
The studio has not yet set a producer, director or actors on “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” which was first announced in September.
Warner Bros. topper Kevin Tsujihara then revealed in March that the studio was following in the footsteps of “The Hobbit” franchise with three “megamovies” for “Fantastic Beasts.”
Tsujihara persuaded Rowling last year to spin off the Harry Potter franchise by adapting her Hogwarts textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” for the big screen. Rowling wrote the 54-page book in 2001 between publication of the fourth and fifth Potter books.
Set initially in New York about seven decades before the start of the Harry Potter story, the films will follow “magizoologist” Newt Scamander as an extension of the wizarding world — rather than being prequels or sequels.
The Warner Bros.-Rowling partnership on “Fantastic Beasts” had been jointly announced in September with Rowling adapting the script from the 2001 book, ostensibly written by the fictional Newt Scamander.
Tsujihara had said at that point that “Fantastic Beasts” would resemble the eight Harry Potter movies in response to a question of whether the films would re-use the same sets, currently housed at Warner’s Leavesden Studios in London.
Tsujihara indicated “Fantastic Beasts” would become a part of studio’s massive merchandising efforts and part of the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” theme parks. And he indicated the project reflects the studio’s commitment to projects with high-profile talent.
“The life-blood of the studio is the content,” Tsujihara said at the time. “We’ve had a long, long relationship with Clint Eastwood, Peter Jackson, Chris Nolan, Todd Phillips, Zack Snyder, and you want to make sure you can create a culture where they want to work.”
The eight Harry Potter films grossed $7.7 billion worldwide between 2001 and 2011. Four of the eight opened in mid-November.
By Dave McNary