London conjures up Pottermania at premiere

The new Harry Potter film has its world premiere in London on Tuesday, ending a two-year wait for faithful fans who have been counting down the days before its theatrical release on July 15.

"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" was originally scheduled to be shown in 2008, and followers of the boy wizard and his adventures at Hogwarts school were disappointed when Hollywood studio Warner Bros. decided to push it back.

Two years ago the fifth movie and the seventh and final book in British author J.K. Rowling's bestselling series combined to trigger an unprecedented wave of "Pottermania" around the world.

That film, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," earned an impressive $938 million in international ticket sales, making it the second biggest picture of 2007.

And the final book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" was the fastest-selling book on record, underlining the popular appeal and commercial value of Rowling's tales.

At the “Half-Blood Prince” premiere on Tuesday, the young stars are expected to greet hundreds of fans in central London.

They are also set to wear white ribbons as a tribute to Rob Knox, who performed in “Half-Blood Prince” before he was murdered in May, 2008, in a knife attack on southeast England.

"I won't pretend that I knew Rob incredibly well, or that I was one of his best friends on set, but I knew him, I liked him, and what happened to him was obviously tragic and awful," said Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry Potter.

Love in the airIn “Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth Potter story, Hogwarts school is increasingly vulnerable to attack from the evil Lord Voldemort, wizard Potter's nemesis.

Professor Slughorn, played by Jim Broadbent, joins the cast, and Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore places more and more trust in Potter, determined to prepare him for his inevitable showdown with Voldemort.

Meanwhile, love blossoms, with Harry falling for Ginny and Ron attracting the attention of Lavender Brown as a heartbroken Hermione looks on jealously.

The first five films have earned $4.5 billion at the box office, and Rowling's Potter books have sold an estimated 400 million copies worldwide.

There will be eight films in all, with the final volume divided into two. The seventh film is scheduled to hit cinemas in November, 2010 and the eighth in the summer of 2011.

Emma Watson, who plays Hermione, believes the Potter world will live on long after the final movie.

"We'll all miss it," she told reporters at a press conference this week to publicize “Half-Blood Prince.”

"But also ... I think you underestimate the longevity of the books and the series. I don't think it's going anywhere fast. I think new generations of children will keep reading the books and hopefully watching the films."