By Mike Collett-White
LONDON (Reuters) - As the studio behind the Harry Potter films likes to remind us, "It all ends here."
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2," the eighth and final installment in one of cinema's most successful series, has its premiere in London in a week, and experts predict records could tumble when it hits theatres on July 15.
The cast and crew have promised the most explosive Potter movie yet, even though computer-generated special effects and action scenes have been predominant throughout.
"The last movie is going to be really, really fast-paced and a load of action in it and it is like a war film," Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe told Reuters in a recent interview.
The final film, the first Potter installment to be available in 3D, will reveal whether boy wizard Potter prevails over his evil nemesis Lord Voldemort in a classic good-versus-evil climax, although J.K. Rowling's novels provide the answer.
Knowing what happens next is unlikely to dampen enthusiasm among the huge fan base Rowling has built up through the seven books and movie adaptations, for whom Deathly Hallows Part 2 will be a bitter-sweet moment.
For millions of mostly young people around the world, the release of each Harry Potter novel or movie was a major event, explaining the long queues outside bookshops and screaming crowds at red carpet film launches.
"I've had eight years of my life with something to look forward to with the next Harry Potter, and it's about to end," said Ren Bishop, a 21-year-old from Springfield, Missouri in the United States.
"As a fan I'm sad; it's like saying goodbye to an old friend," added the two-time local Potter trivia champion.
Befitting such a landmark film, Hollywood studio Warner Bros will take over London's historic Trafalgar Square for the red carpet premiere, making space for the anticipated crowds dressed in Potter costumes and intense media interest.
LIFE AFTER POTTER?
For weeks plasma screens in Tokyo and advertisements across Britain have been flagging the sendoff, which is set to be marked with parties, stunts and promotional events.
On the red carpet will be the actors playing Harry, Ron and Hermione, aged between nine and 11 years old when they were cast and who have grown up in the bubble of super stardom.
For Rupert Grint (Ron), Radcliffe (Harry) and Emma Watson (Hermione), the transition to life post-Potter may not be easy, despite the fact that all three have sizeable personal fortunes and other acting options to pursue.
For Warner Bros, the end of Potter, its most bankable property, is equally daunting.
The seven movies released so far, starting with "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's (Sorcerer's) Stone" in 2001, have grossed $6.4 billion at the box office, averaging close to $1 billion per picture.
Although the figures hide a steady decline in admissions, with the first film still the most successful, experts predict that the combination of higher 3D ticket prices and anticipation surrounding the final chapter could see Deathly Hallows 2 break records.
Website Boxofficemojo said it could even eclipse the North American opening weekend record of $158.4 million set by Batman blockbuster "The Dark Knight" in 2008.
The movies are only a part of a lucrative Potter industry. Author Rowling's seven books have sold more than 400 million copies globally, and there are toys, video games and a theme park tied to the books and movies.
Despite the imminent disappearance of Potter from the big screen, Rowling wants to ensure that he lives on, commercially as well as creatively.
Last week she launched a new website Pottermore which will develop characters and storylines from the books and allow readers to interact and navigate her magical world.
There is also a shop, the exclusive vendor of the soon-to-be-launched eBooks along with other merchandise.
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)