J.K. Rowling working on Harry Potter-related films

Author J.K Rowling attends the world premiere of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" in London in 2011. (Carl Cour / AFP/Getty Images)

Warner Bros. is hoping "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling has another magic trick up her sleeve.

More than two years after the last film in the eight-picture franchise about the boy wizard hit theaters, the studio announced it would release a series of films inspired by "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," a 42-page fictional Hogwarts textbook that Rowling wrote in 2001 to accompany her "Potter" novels.

The deal is a major coup for Warner Bros. and its new chief executive, Kevin Tsujihara, who studio insiders said spent several months negotiating the arrangement with Rowling.

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It could mean years of new life for the "Potter" franchise, which sold more than $7.7 billion in movie tickets worldwide — and became a popular theme park attraction — before coming to an end in 2011 with "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2."

The pact could supply the Burbank film studio with a new franchise, introducing "Fantastic Beasts" to audiences who were too young for the original "Potter" series.

"Harry Potter has been a sensational project for the studio," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros. "I can't imagine why we won't continue to have the fan base of the 'Potter' series come out. We can even go much younger and connect with a whole new generation."

The deal couldn't come at a better time for the Burbank studio, which has had a tumultuous year filled with the departures of key executives and an important creative partner.

In June, roughly three months after Tsujihara became CEO, Jeff Robinov, head of Warner Bros.' movie unit, departed in the aftermath of a grueling, two-year-plus fight to replace Barry Meyer as chairman and chief executive. Warner Bros. Television Group chief Bruce Rosenblum also left the company, Hollywood's largest film and television studio and a unit of Time Warner Inc.

About a month after Robinov left, film production powerhouse Legendary Entertainment, long a key supplier of action and fantasy films to the studio, struck a production, co-financing and distribution deal with rival Universal Pictures.

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"It's significant in the career of Tsujihara, because obviously he has been under pressure to do something to get this company's entertainment activities moving in the right direction again," said Hal Vogel, an entertainment industry analyst who has long followed Time Warner. "They had such a long positive history, but turmoil over the last year has been enormous. If I were in his position this kind of deal would have been a priority to complete."

The Rowling deal doesn't exactly offer a replacement for Legendary, but it would appear to give Warner Bros. a steady stream of pictures with youth appeal, which is increasingly key to a franchise's success.

Warner Bros. also will serve as the distributor of a planned BBC television adaptation of Rowling's bestselling 2012 non-Potter novel "The Casual Vacancy." The miniseries is expected to begin production next year.

The deal does not include any planned film or television production based on "The Cuckoo's Calling," a bestselling crime novel Rowling released under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith earlier this year.

Rowling, 48, will write the "Beasts" screenplay — a first for the British author. When Warner Bros. proposed turning the book into a film, the author said she felt uncomfortable with the idea of another screenwriter taking on her "fictional universe."

Warner Bros. has not said when production would begin, or announced a release date.

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Gerry Philpott, chief executive of market research firm E-Poll, said that among the entertainment industry figures his company tracks, Rowling has one of the highest ratings from consumers in terms of their interest in her work. He said that would help Warner Bros. sell a film series from the "Harry Potter" author — even if the bespectacled wizard doesn't make an appearance.

"While this isn't exactly 'Harry Potter,' she brings so much goodwill to the franchise," Philpott said. "It was a no-brainer for Warner Bros. and her to do this. You've got one of the biggest booksellers ever and tremendous feeling about her storytelling ability."