Warner Bros. announced today that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is no longer on their 2008 release schedule, and instead will open July 17, 2009. That’s an eight month delay from the film’s original berth of November 21st. Now what are the pre-teens, their mothers, and other fans of young adult fiction going to see this holiday season? If only there were some other popular tweener book series coming to the screen to fill Harry’s void!
Market Watch carried the announcement from WB President, Alan Horn, which gave two specific reasons for the schedule change.
“Our reasons for shifting ‘Half-Blood Prince’ to summer are twofold: we know the summer season is an ideal window for a family tent pole release, as proven by the success of our last Harry Potter film, which is the second-highest grossing film in the franchise, behind only the first installment. Additionally, like every other studio, we are still feeling the repercussions of the writers’ strike, which impacted the readiness of scripts for other films–changing the competitive landscape for 2009 and offering new windows of opportunity that we wanted to take advantage of. We agreed the best strategy was to move ‘Half-Blood Prince’ to July, where it perfectly fills the gap for a major tent pole release for mid-summer.”
Normally when a studio pushes a major film’s release date back so dramatically the press (read: blogosphere) goes nuts and runs with the assumption that something has gone terribly wrong with the picture. Poor screenings, budgetary issues, post-production woes, etc… but I don’t see the same thing happening to Harry and friends. Potter producer David Heyman was sure to add that he’s “extremely proud of this latest film and of the work of (director) David Yates and our incomparable cast; I believe we have developed and pushed the series further still. We are all looking forward to sharing it with Harry Potter fans around the world, even if we have to wait just a bit longer.”
The change leaves an enormous gap in this coming holiday season’s film schedule. The only other movies currently scheduled to open on November 21st are Slumdog Millionaire and The Soloist, neither of which are expected to draw in the youth crowds (or any crowds for that matter.) I expect that to change as other studios start shifting some of their own movies around to take advantage of Harry’s absence. Basically every other film in theaters will reap some extra box-office, but it’ll be fare like Disney’s Bolt and Summit Entertainment’s little vampire film Twilight that benefit the most.