Thanksgiving just got a lot less magical. Warner Bros. has announced that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, originally scheduled for release on Nov. 21, has been pushed back to July 17. As in 2009. As in ELEVEN MONTHS AWAY! It's enough to make you utter an unforgivable curse, such as "Avada Kedavra!" or "What the f***?!"
A film's release date being moved back is usually a sign that the production is in trouble, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. For one thing, the production on Half-Blood Prince is pretty much finished already, and it's not like the director, producers, or actors were inexperienced screw-ups. No, the date change in this case seems to be purely strategic. Said top WB honcho Alan Horn in a press release:
"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.... 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.... [Half-Blood Prince] perfectly fills the gap for a major tent-pole release for mid-summer."
There are two ways of reading that. One is that WB won't have anything else PG-13 and family-friendly ready for mid-summer, so Half-Blood Prince has been called in to save the day. The other is that WB is well aware that the other studios' summer plans were screwed up by the strike, so they've moved Harry Potter into position to take full advantage of that weakness. Both are probably at least partially true, and it's a pretty savvy move in either case.
WB confirmed that this change will not affect the shooting of the two films intended to end the series, for which shooting begins in February.
Coming Soon reports that to take advantage of the new Nov. 21 vacancy, Disney is moving its animated feature Bolt up to that date from Nov. 26. We'll keep you posted on whether the Harry Potter move changes anything else -- like, for example, whether Land of the Lost, already scheduled for July 17 and now up against HP, chickens out and moves to another date. We wouldn't blame 'em.