‘Potter’ delay is about money, not nudity

Aug. 18, 2008 | 4:29 p.m.

PotterTalk about ludicrous: Roger Friedman at FOX News is putting forth a flimsy theory that Warner Bros. postponed “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” because Dan Radcliffe will be on Broadway in the fall performing in “Equus.” Why? Well, check out the ingredients of this half-baked idea:

Radcliffe appears naked in the play, on stage, and has sex in it as well. That’s not the image Warner Bros. wants associated with bespectacled Harry, who remains chaste and virginal.

Indeed, posters for “Equus” are up all over New York, of Radcliffe’s naked torso superimposed on a horse’s head. This is not the sort of thing that’s taught at Hogwarts. For the movie to open on Nov. 21, Radcliffe would have to do publicity entailing answering questions about blinding horses and having sex with them vs. flying around and making potions.

But, um, what about the fact that Radcliffe did the play last year in London amid intense media scrutiny? And the fact that he earned good reviews by critics and was also generally hailed by fans of the “Potter” books for his versatility and boldness? Did you miss all of that? I know Warner Bros. didn’t and, in fact, they were delighted that their young star was holding his own at the Gielgud Theatre on the West End — and they didn’t mind the free stir of publicity either. I came across Roger’s “theory” on The Big Picture blog by Patrick Goldstein, who had a great take on it:

Putting aside the obvious — any 10-year-old could’ve told Roger that by the time of “Half-Blood Prince,” the Harry Potter protagonists are quite well aware of the opposite sex — the theory is hilariously New York-ocentric, as if Middle America were really riveted by what was happening on one stage in midtown Manhattan.

Another good point. So, sorry to break it to you, Roger, but this movie is being pushed back for one reason and one reason alone: money.

Warner Bros. executives believe that a dominant summer blockbuster is better than a dominant fall blockbuster, especially when their target “Potter” audience has so many young people who are far more likely to be repeat consumers for a film released during the summer school break. After watching “The Dark Knight” surge to historic heights this summer with a mid-July release, the Warner Bros. brain trust decided, hey, let’s do that again next year.

I have also heard theories that there is a significant accounting advantage to pushing the “Potter” costs into a later financial quarter, as well as some play-it-safe wisdom in spreading two tent-pole franchises out a bit more. That approach might dovetail with any anxieties Warner Bros. executives have about the box-office sizzle of next year’s slate of films (which includes the R-rated “Watchmen,” a Clint Eastwood project and “Terminator Salvation“). The thinking goes like this: If Warner Bros. fears a sharp drop-off for shareholders next year, just push “Potter” into summer 2009. BUT I’ve also heard other analysts say that just doesn’t add up. More than that, Pali Research, the respected analysts who were widely quoted saying that the “Potter” postponement would help the Warner’s parent’s 2008 earnings by delaying P&A costs (that’s “payment and allowances” in accounting-speak) have backed off that notion:

We made a mistake … given the global release of “Harry Potter” and its expected revenues in the first 4-5 weeks, moving the film out of 2008 is actually negative for Time Warner’s 2008 earnings, even with the significant upfront P&A hit.

Confusing stuff, strange times. I can tell you this: Alan Horn, the chairman of Warner Bros., told me last week that there is no in-house anxiety about next year’s films and that this was purely a proactive move to seize a position of marketplace strength next summer, which Horn says is thinner than usual due to the recent writers strike.

There are a lot of you that aren’t admirers of Horn these days and plenty of you who plainly distrust him. I myself don’t think he’s lying, but I do wonder whether he’s miscalculated the sheer animus of fans. Either way, one thing I do know: This is about greenbacks, not bare bottoms.

— Geoff Boucher

RELATED All “Harry Potter” coverage at Hero Complex

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

More in: Uncategorized, Harry Potter


10 Responses to ‘Potter’ delay is about money, not nudity

  1. David says:

    Anyone who takes Fixed Noise (Fox News) seriously is in need of some therapy. It's little more than the moutpiece of a failed, paranoid, right-wing White House.

  2. Sydney says:

    I like that – "this is about green backs and not bare bottoms." We should all know by know, anyway, that FAUX news makes stuff up. Why bother with whatever they write? They're all lying, scavenging, sensationalists anyway. They should stick with what they're best at – running T&A type sitcoms on their network…

  3. Will says:

    Anyone who takes Fixed Noise (Fox News) seriously is in need of some therapy. It's little more than the moutpiece of a failed, paranoid, right-wing White House.
    Yeah, that's right. This conspiratorial plot to delay the release of Harry Potter comes straight from George W. Bush.

  4. emory says:

    This is ridiculous, why the hell would you piss off fans who have been waiting since the last movie for this one….?
    the rational is ridiculous the hardcore fans are still going to go watch it more than one, and the kids have no idea about equous (the play), so this is ridiculous 3 out of the 5 movies have been released in November and they have done just fine. Plus you can not compare the market for batman to the harry potter one, yes harry potter is huge ages 7-25 but batman is huge in all ages and the charater has been with us for 50 + years, so naturally they will have a different box office result.

  5. jo precht says:

    Why has there been so little news coverage on this?? Over 46,000 people have signed an online petition to protest the delay. Which would have been a lot more if petitionspot had not been down for three days for updating their site. There is no production delay. As Alan Horn of Warner Brothers stated, the movie was ready to be released on time. He had already seen it. But since The Dark Knight made more money than they had planned they arbitrarily decided to postpone The Half Blood Prince untill July 2009.
    Thousands of outraged fans have signed petitions, emailed Warner Brothers, written protests. There are over 100,00 sites that have popped up since they announced the delay. I can understand why CNN does not run the story, but surely Warner Brothers is not involved with every other news agency. This is at least entertainment news!!

  6. Geoff Boucher says:

    Jo, Well there's been a LOT of coverage of this here at Hero Complex, with a half-dozen posts (some of them quite lengthy) and hundreds of comments from readers. We've brought you exclusive interviews with Warner executives and analysis. I also wrote a story about the delay that ran on the front page of the Los Angeles Times business section. You can access our coverage here: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/herocomplex/harry

  7. Jack says:

    In the movie world, P&A typically means "prints and advertising." It is most probable that is what the analysts at Pali are referencing.

  8. Janet says:

    I do not intend to see Harry Potter in the theatre, now. I will wait until the DVD comes out, and possibly until the final three have all been released. We're having to wait so long now, it won't really make much difference. Besides, HBP (6) is the book that made it most difficult to wait for the final book anyway. So, I'll just wait, thank you very much. I do hope Warner Brothers is negatively impacted at the box office because of this choice. It is a shameful way to treat the fans. Have they never heard the manta "underpromise, overdeliver."? The WB manta appears to be "pull the rug out from under."

  9. Kevin says:

    Harry who? I'm starting to forget. Absence isn't making my heart grow fonder.

  10. MIKE says:


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