- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2007

LONDON

Harry Potter fans around the globe are looking forward to a magical month of July, as the fifth film in the series premieres in London tonight (It opens July 11 in the United States), while the final book arrives in stores in three weeks.

Indeed, the only thing that’s more eagerly anticipated than the release of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” opening in movie theaters around the world may be the seventh part of J.K. Rowling’s best-selling books, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” due out July 21.

To date, the six books published have sold 325 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 64 languages. The international box office gross for the four Potter films is $3.5 billion.


Elsewhere, the goings-on of the bespectacled Harry and his friends has even spawned a theme park in Florida: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is expected to open in Orlando in late 2009.

Miss Rowling’s final tome, however, is generating even more excitement than her previous six books. The author’s British publisher Bloomsbury said last month that export orders for the latest edition are 17 percent higher than the total for the sixth installment, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

Anticipation of the book’s release has reached such a fever pitch that an Internet hacker claimed to have broken into the computers of the publishers of the “Harry Potter” books and discovered the ending of the series. Bloomsbury rejected the claims.

Miss Rowling has said she will kill off two characters from the series, without revealing which ones.

But much of the betting has been on the boy wizard himself — played by Daniel Radcliffe — dying, and bookmakers William Hill stand to lose more than $34,000 if Potter does indeed die.

Moreover, retailers fear that the ending of the series and the accompanying deaths could cause such a high level of distress among fans that Waterstone’s, a major bookseller in the U.K., is planning to set up a help line for readers.

Even the cast of the latest Harry Potter film are awaiting the release of the finale, with young Mr. Radcliffe — who turns 18 later this month — reticent to venture his own theories. He says Miss Rowling would “come up with something far more interesting or exciting than anything we can ever predict or imagine.”

Evanna Lynch, 15, who plays Potter’s schoolmate Luna Lovegood in the latest film, is planning to wait along with fans to get the final tome.

The book will be available to the public at one minute past midnight in Great Britain on July 21 , and at the same time in the rest of the world except for the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Before getting their hands on the final book in the series, fans will be able to see Mr. Radcliffe play Potter for the fifth time in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

Produced at a cost of $150 million , the film has been described by Mr. Radcliffe as the one he was most proud of, while co-star Emma Watson — who plays Potter’s friend Hermione Granger — told reporters it was the “most genuine” of the series.

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