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Warner Bros. Unleashes New Potter Efforts

AOL Time Warner's Warner Bros. Pictures unit is taking the wraps off what it hopes will be the second successful Web promotion for its "Harry Potter" franchise.

The Burbank, Calif. movie studio is planning to promote the release of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" with Web sites in the U.S. and the U.K., and AOL Keywords.

Warner Bros. said the initial Harrypotter.com site saw 25 million unique visitors last year, when the studio released "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" ("Philosopher's Stone" in the U.K.). The site also garnered one million newsletter signups.

Now, with a relaunched HarryPotter.com, Warner Bros. is looking to expand the effort, again tapping DNA Studio as its interactive agency for the work.

In terms of new additions, the site will feature a new animated short film and an interactive game. The studio also said it plans to launch Wizard Duels, a game that visitors can play against each other, and a virtual "House Elf," who will send users' e-mail messages and do other online chores.

For the first time, the site also will launch versions in nine languages, in recognition of the fact that the site receives visitors from scores of countries. (The site's coverage of the "Harry Potter" premiere in London drew visitors from about 40 countries, for instance.)

"As the fans have demonstrated, Harry Potter is a truly global phenomenon," said Jim Noonan, senior vice president and general manager at Warner Bros. Online. "We are very proud to have created a Web site that captures the imaginations of millions of fans worldwide on a daily basis, and we look forward to continued success as we debut a host of new destinations dedicated specifically to 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.'"

As with many online movie marketing efforts, the goal of the new HarryPotter.com revamp is to create an experience that opens the brand to greater consumer interaction -- which hopefully translates into box-office sales.

"Whether they've read all of the Harry Potter novels and seen the first film, or are just now immersing themselves in the world of Harry Potter, fans can amplify their experience in this exceptional interactive environment," said Don Buckley, senior vice president of interactive marketing at Warner Bros. Pictures.

Disney , for instance, launched a 3D, multiplayer game linked to the release of its animated feature "Atlantis: The Lost Empire." The game, which was distributed via CDs at theme parks and in marketing deals with consumer packaged goods manufacturers, let users explore Atlantis from the viewpoint of a character in the movie.

Similarly, Microsoft and Warner Bros. teamed up for the massive guerilla marketing promotion behind "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence" last year, which aimed to immerse sci-fi fans in the world of the film. Universal, in promoting "Jurassic Park III", launched a site with an interactive tour of the island from the film and a first-person, Quake-like game.

However, studios occasionally opt for more straightforward online marketing for established brands with their own built-in fan bases -- such as comics translated into movies.

For example, Sony's "Spider-Man" earlier this year highlighted exclusive, behind-the-scenes clips from the making of the movie, interviews with Spider-Man creator Stan Lee, and other material designed to appeal to the comic book fan. It was a similar story for Warner Bros.' promotion of "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," which centered around a site featuring actor interviews and information on the films.