LOS ANGELES -- Warner Brothers is doubling down on the J.K. Rowling business. The studio, whose blockbuster "Harry Potter" films have generated billions of dollars for the company, announced Thursday that it had concluded a deal with the author that will include new movies, distribution rights to a television miniseries and new theme park attractions.
The studio said it had entered an agreement under which Rowling, who wrote the "Harry Potter" books, will become a screenwriter for the first time, working on an adaptation of her "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," a book that extends the world of wizardry in the Potter series. In a statement, Warner said the movie would become the first in a planned film series.
The studio also said the agreement would permit new attractions and initiatives connected with its existing "Harry Potter" theme park presence at the Universal Studios parks.
In television, the deal makes Warner the global distributor of a BBC miniseries based on "The Casual Vacancy," a Rowling novel that is aimed at adults. The miniseries is set for production next year, the studio said.
The Rowling deal marks a significant step for Kevin Tsujihara, who was recently named chief executive of Warner, after a long, internal competition for a post being vacated by Barry Meyer. The "Harry Potter" film series, which Warner started in 2001 with "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," has been a huge success for the company. The final film, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2," took in more than $1.3 billion at the worldwide box office after its release in 2011.
Rowling, who has become almost as closely associated with the studio as with her own books, said Warner executives had proposed the idea of a film based on "Fantastic Beasts," and she counter-proposed that she should be the writer, though she has not previously written screenplays.
"As I considered Warners' proposal, an idea took shape that I couldn't dislodge," said Ms. Rowling in a statement. "That is how I ended up pitching my own idea for a film to Warner Brothers."
She said she envisioned the film as "an extension of the wizarding world," but not a prequel or sequel to the "Potter" series.
First Published September 12, 2013 7:00 PM