Author J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally popular Harry Potter books spawned an eight-movie series which grossed over $7.7 billion at the global box office. The movies were a studio’s dream: a huge fan base, well-received (for the most part) by critics, and part of a vast fictional universe ripe for various merchandise licensing and franchising.

We know that Warner Bros. has trademarked elements of Rowling’s spin-off books set in the same world for use in future properties (movies, video games or even TV series), including “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” and “The Tales of Beedle the Bard”; not to mention, marketing a coffee drink from Starbuck’s based on the wizarding world’s “butter beer,” as well as the huge theme park in Orlando, Florida.

Now, USA Today reports that J.K. Rowling will produce – but not write – a stage play based on The Boy Who Lived’s early years, which will premiere in London’s West End at some point inside the next two years. Rowling accepted a story pitch from producers Sonia Friedman (responsible for The Book of Mormon) and Colin Callender, with an actual writer to be chosen soon. The play will apparently focus on “the previously untold story of Harry Potter’s early years as an orphan and outcast.”

Rowling told the Daily Mail that:

“[Friedman and Callender’s idea] was the only one that really made sense to me, and which had the sensitivity, intensity and intimacy I thought appropriate for bringing Harry’s story to the stage. After a year in gestation, it is very exciting to see this project moving onto the next phrase.”

Considering that the Harry Potter films were Warner Bros. biggest cash cows – out-grossing even Christopher Nolan’s Batman films (with eight films versus Nolan’s three, not that hard, but still) – the decision to keep the Harry Potter movie universe alive in any form possible should surprise exactly no one. The studio is “understood” to be involved with the development of the play, making the notion of a movie prequel – or a series of them – not just possible but probable.

We here at Screen Rant have our own ideas of what kind of spin-off movies we’d like to see, and none of them focus directly on Harry himself. With such a rich background history of that world available – going back thousands of years, to the founders of the Hogwarts houses – it seems unnecessary to hone in on a very, very young Harry, since his story has essentially been told. The play will be a success, that much is a given – but the relatively safe premise of this project might be more of a way to test the waters with a Harry Potter spin-off in order to gauge the public’s reaction to these properties.

Hardcore fans of the books and movies will flock to a movie based on the history of the Aurors or the early years of Godric Griffyndor, but casual moviegoers familiar with only the film series will need something instantly accessible, so on that level, this move makes sense. Will the play provide some kind of previously unexplored aspect of this nearly-universally known character? Rowling seems to think so, which means that the prospect for future movies is definitely viable.

The as-yet-untitled Harry Potter play will premiere on London’s West End in 2015.

Source: USA Today, The Daily Mail