Tokyo premiere launches return of "Harry Potter"

TOKYO (Reuters) - Thousands of fans, some dressed as wizards in long gowns with pointy hats, lined up in Tokyo to catch the sixth in the blockbuster “Harry Potter” film series on Monday, kicking off a string of such events around the world.

Fans in costumes pose as they enter the movie theatre for the premiere of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" in Tokyo July 6, 2009. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”, the latest movie about the boy wizard and his friends and enemies at Hogwarts school promises both action and budding romance, along with the expected death of a major character.

The film opens at movie theatres in Japan and around the world on July 15, two years after the previous movie in the series.

“I was very disappointed when the release was postponed last year,” said Yuta Endo, a 19-year-old university student, who watched the fifth instalment five times.

“I was so looking forward to it and worked really hard to get a ticket for the screening today.”

In the sixth instalment, directed by British director David Yates, Harry prepares himself for a final battle against the evil lord Voldemort, whose ambition is to take over the world, under the watchful eyes of Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore.

Romantic tensions also mount as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) falls in love with Ginny and Ron (Rupert Grint) catches the attention of Lavender Brown, triggering Hermione’s (Emma Watson) jealousy.

The five movies released so far have grossed $4.5 billion in ticket sales around the world.

But there are signs the magic may be wearing off in Japan. Box office revenue has totaled more than 71.5 billion yen ($751 million), with the first instalment scoring the third biggest box office hit in Japanese movie history.

The series’ popularity has since waned, with the fifth movie earning less than half the revenues of the first.

“Some of my friends stopped reading the books after the fourth or fifth instalment,” said Minori Wada, a 16-year-old student who said she had read all the books. “But I will be a fan for ever.”

Endo said he was holding off reading the final volume of the series.

“I am scared to end it. I am not ready for it yet,” he said.

How many other Japanese are still under the spell of the wizard remains to be seen.