LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Big-budget franchises, classic tales told Hollywood style and major star couplings mark the upcoming holiday movie season that sees "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" once again conjuring film magic.
With its global premiere on Thursday night in London and a worldwide debut set for November 19, "Hallows," the first of a two-part finale covering the final adventure of the British boy wizard, begins a six-week holiday season that is second only to the summer in terms of ticket sales and major event movies.
"Deathly Hallows" is expected to reign at box offices just like all six of its predecessors ($5.4 billion combined), and already movie ticketing website Fandango.com has reported 900 showtimes for the movie sold out in the United States.
"The seventh 'Harry Potter' film is the most anticipated film of the holidays," said Fandango Chief Operating Officer Rick Butler. "'Deathly Hallows' is the most complex of all the 'Harry Potter' adventures so fans are waiting with bated breath to see the concluding story play out on the big screen."
But "Harry Potter" is not the only major franchise in theaters this coming holiday season. "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" debuts December 10. while comedy "Little Fockers" -- from the "Meet the Parents" franchise -- is due out December 22 with Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro reprising their awkward son-in-law/father-in-law relationship. This time, there are children involved.
Also landing in theaters is the highly anticipated sequel to the 1982 feature "Tron," which gets a massive technological upgrade in the December 17 release of "Tron: Legacy." "Legacy" breathes new life in to a franchise that is likely to spark future installments.
Classic fairy tales also get an update. On November 24, the Brothers Grimm's "Rapunzel" gets the Disney treatment in "Tangled," a 3D animated musical. The girl with the long golden locks escapes her tower for the first time and finds herself in an adventure of self-discovery and romance.
"Rapunzel is a fearless young woman," says actress Mandy Moore, who voices the role. "She's never set foot on the ground in 18 years and yet she is willing to go into the unknown because she has a dream. Of course, she also comes to find out that what makes her special isn't necessarily just her hair."
Also on November 24, Christmas comes early as E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" -- on which Tchaikovsky's famous ballet is based on -- gets supersized in the form of "The Nutcracker in 3D," starring Elle Fanning.
And they aren't the only remakes of classic tales. William Shakespeare's "The Tempest" gets a gender-bending reversal on December 10 with Helen Mirren in the starring role, Prospera. On December 22, 18th century writer Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" sees a modern, 3D retelling with comedian Jack Black as a mailroom clerk transported into a fantasy world populated by pint-sized people, including characters played by Emily Blunt and Jason Segel.
On December 17, the 1960s Hanna-Barbera animated series, "Yogi Bear" also comes to life as a live-action/computer animated adventure in 3D. Yogi and Boo Boo are voiced by Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake, respectively, while Anna Faris and Tom Cavanagh are among the live humans with whom they interact.
Shifting gears from family-style entertainment to romance, on November 24, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway hook up in "Love and Other Drugs" about a pharmaceutical salesman who falls for a woman with early stages of Parkinson's Disease.
Elsewhere on December 10, Johnny Depp is an American who falls for Angelina Jolie while in Italy in "The Tourist."
Other Hollywood couplings include Reese Witherspoon caught in a love triangle between a baseball player (Owen Wilson) and a corporate man in a crisis (Paul Rudd) in filmmaker James L. Brook's comedy "How Do you Know," out December 17.
And Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams watch their marriage disintegrate even as their characters recall sexier, steamier times in provocative drama "Blue Valentine," out December 31.
Hathaway, Williams and Gosling are harboring high hopes for Oscar nominations as each year at this time, Hollywood begins campaigning for February's Academy Awards, the world's top film honors. With nominations to be announced in January, the next six weeks will feature plenty of films and performances vying for those coveted slots.
On November 26, Colin Firth portrays King George VI whose own stutter nearly came between him and his reign in "The King's Speech." Natalie Portman plays a competitive ballerina in filmmaker Darren Aronofsky's dark thriller "Black Swan," due out December 3. Both films played strongly at festivals earlier this year and are expected to see some awards consideration.
Past Oscar winners are back, too. On December 17, Nicole Kidman struggles to get past her son's death in "Rabbit Hole," Gwyneth Paltrow belts out country tunes in "Country Strong" on Dec 22, and filmmaker Sofia Coppola explores the life of a hard-living Hollywood actor (Stephen Dorf) who gets a surprise visit from his 11 year-old daughter (Elle Fanning) in "Somewhere."
Last year's best actor winner Jeff Bridges returns in Joel and Ethan Cohen's remake of "True Grit," also on Dec 22. He plays a U.S. Marshall opposite Matt Damon's Texas ranger as they help a teenage girl hunt down the man who killed her dad.
On December 29, Javier Bardem plays a man struggling with mortality, fatherhood and love in "Biutiful." On the same day comes director Mike Leigh's "Another Year" with Jim Broadbent as one half of a happily married couple with unhappy friends.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte