Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The IMAX Experience gets double-booked as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen overlap.

I've written before about the coming IMAX wars, when every major studio will jockey for their allotted IMAX run for their respective summer tent pole film. With IMAX quickly becoming the new normal for major franchise pictures, it was only a matter of time before conflicts arose. Well, yesterday morning, word leaked that the IMAX premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will in fact be delayed for over two full weeks. While the 35mm version will still open all across the country on Wednesday, July 15th, the IMAX version will not be available nationwide until July 29th. There will be only two IMAX theaters, one in LA and one in NY, that will be playing Harry Potter 6 in IMAX for the first two weeks. The reason? Well, Paramount apparently booked an exclusive five-week engagement for their own mega-movie, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (many articles about this wrongly claim that it was a four-week exclusive that will end on July 22nd). IMAX's stock took a 6% dive because of the news, and they seem to be assigned primary blame in this situation.

Both would-be summer champions have an extra bonus for IMAX viewers. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has several scenes that were shot on IMAX film (Ala The Dark Knight), and the IMAX version will actually be a few minutes longer. On the other hand, Harry Potter 6 will have a twelve-minute climactic sequence that will be rendered in 3D, just as Order of the Pheonix did. the two films are all-but guaranteed to end up the first and second-highest grossing films of the summer (with Pixar's Up playing a possible spoiler role). If the Paramount sci-fi spectacle and Warner's wizard's tale end up anywhere close to each other in domestic box office, expect cries for an asterisk to be placed in front of the second Transformers's ranking at summer's end.

As a reaction, Warner Bros. could move Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince back to Friday the 17th of July (it was moved to Wednesday, July 15th early this year). Or, if it's not too late, Warner could just move Harry Potter 6 to July 24th. So, instead of having to make the fans hold out for two weeks (which is an eternity in this front-loaded opening-weekend driven industry), you now only have one week. Moving to the 29th is impossible since that means that they get less than a month before most kids go back to school, although planting it on August 7th, the day GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, would be a nice 'up-yours' to Paramount. Any date change at this late period would be a drastic choice and one that could further fan the flames of annoyance amongst the very die-hard Potter fans who would probably see the film in both formats anyway. Plus it would be a signal that Warner Bros. was basically admitting defeat in this unofficial d**k-measuring contest. Still, such a move to July 24th might actually help Warner Bros as the IMAX premiere weekend could cause a much smaller than usual second-weekend drop if the hardcores all go see it for a second time at IMAX theaters.

All this making lemonade out of lemons aside, this is an interesting problem that will have major consequences as IMAX becomes a bigger and more dominant variable in franchise filmmaking. The best case scenario is that this turns out to be similar to the bootlegged copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, an 'ohmygod-ohmygod!' story that turned out to be irrelevant when the film opened to $85 million anyway. Truth be told, I can't imagine anyone who was planning on seeing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on opening weekend deciding not to go because it was only available in 35mm. I'm guessing that this will be more of an 'egg on our face' moment than anything else.

Scott Mendelson

1 comment:

Kyle Leaman said...

Is it possible that the two week wait would actually help Potter by creating a double dip opportunity for people who wouldn't otherwise? Those whose only showing would have been opening weekend Imax, would still go opening weekend and then venture out to the Imax version two weeks later for a re-watch?


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