Harry Potter Faces Narnia Challenge in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The fourth Harry Potter film, The Goblet of Fire, is confidently expected to break box-office records when it opens in the UK on 18 November.

Directed by Mike Newell of Four Weddings and a Funeral fame, it will be the fourth hit in a row for its young stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint.

All three have been signed up for the fifth film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, due out in summer 2007.

By then, however, the series’ status as Hollywood’s pre-eminent fantasy franchise may be under threat from another blockbuster saga looming on the horizon – The Chronicles of Narnia, which is released in the UK on 8 December.

Mystical landscape

For three consecutive Christmases between 2001 and 2003, audiences flocked to see the three instalments in Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings.

The first two of these, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, opened in close proximity to the first two Potter titles, the Philosopher’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets.

The first Potter narrowly outperformed Fellowship at the US box office, but the situation was reversed the following year.

Their success proved there was a strong demand for epic adventure based on popular fantasy fiction.

And it is precisely that demographic that Walt Disney Pictures and its producing partner Walden Media hope to target with their $150m (£85m) version of CS Lewis’s Narnia adventure, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Like the Lord of the Rings, the film is based on a 20th century literary classic and has been mostly shot in New Zealand, on soundstages previously used for Jackson’s films.

But with six more Narnia books optioned, the nascent franchise has even more material to draw on than the JRR Tolkien-inspired trilogy.

[Read the rest at BBC News]

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