'Harry Potter' stars help debut Universal Orlando ride

Wed Jun 18, 2014 10:29pm EDT
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By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - Stars of the "Harry Potter" franchise hit the red carpet at the much-anticipated expansion of Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter on Wednesday, ahead of the opening of the new attraction on July 8.

The addition of Diagon Alley to the theme park is expected to provide a boost for the park's revenues and for tourism in central Florida. It recreates the wizarding business district in London described in J.K. Rowling's popular book series and featured heavily in the subsequent Warner Bros. movies.

The new attraction expands the original Harry Potter world, which opened in 2010 and is modeled after Hogsmeade Village, which is located near the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where the series' leading character Harry Potter begins his magical adventures.

Actor Tom Felton, who plays Harry's school nemesis Draco Malfoy, said Universal Studios' Diagon Alley attraction is better than the movie set he spent a decade filming on.

"It's far more immersive. There's no scaffolding, no green screen, no electricians standing around," he told Reuters.

Felton was joined by co-stars including Helena Bonham Carter, who plays the ruthless Bellatrix Lestrange and said the film series "gave me a job to come back to" after she took time away to have children.

The film's leading stars, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) did not attend on Wednesday night due to scheduling conflicts.

Author Rowling was also absent, although her latest book "The Silkworm," written under pseudonym Robert Galbraith, is set to hit stores on Thursday.   Continued...

Guests tour the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park at the Universal Studio Resort during its grand opening in Orlando, Florida June 18, 2010. REUTERS/Scott Audette