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It's 'Harry Potter' vs. 'Rings' -- again

Harry will hope his magic will work at the cinema again
Harry will hope his magic will work at the cinema again

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LONDON, England -- The successors to "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" (known in the United States as "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone") and "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" are set to go head-to-head in trying to lure children to the cinema in the run-up to Christmas.

The fantasy films featuring the child wizard Harry and Hobbit Frodo Baggins are to be released within weeks of each other in a Hollywood Blockbuster Battle, Part II.

The original "Potter" took the honors at the worldwide box office last time around, attracting $965 million against the $860 million earned by "Lord of the Rings," which suffered from a later release date in Japan.

A tighter contest is predicted this time when "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" is released in mid-November followed by the second "Lord of the Rings" in December.

Robert Mitchell, box office analyst at Screen International Magazine, was quoted by Reuters as saying: "The whole worldwide difference last time was accounted for by Japan.

"In Japan, 'Lord of the Rings' opened much later and by the time it got there it had the 'Masterpiece Label' stuck on it. The under-25s didn't go and see it as they feared it would be long-winded."

But the two movies could suffer from sequel fatigue.

Mitchell added: "I suspect 'Harry' will beat 'The Rings' but I think there is a chance it might be closer. Both might drop. Most sequels don't do as much as the first one."

AOL Time Warner, which owns the two studios behind the films, will try and avert a downside affect by keeping the release dates separate, Mitchell added. AOL Time Warner is also the parent company of CNN.

Warners Bros. makes the "Potter" films, while New Line Cinema created the "Rings" movie saga.

"Lord of the Rings" hopes to be on target at the box office

"At the end of the day they will be opening four or five weeks apart -- they don't want to kill each other off," Mitchell said.

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books have also performed better on the bookshelves, outselling J.R.R. Tolkien's "Rings" trilogy.

Rowling's four books have sold 175 million copies in 59 languages while Tolkien's saga has sold 100 million during the past half century.

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