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‘Harry Potter’ fan rebellion of 2008

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Here’s a short story I have in Saturday’s Los Angeles Times:

Call it ‘Harry Potter and the Revolt of the Muggles.’ A day after Warner Bros. announced that it would be pulling the sixth ‘Potter’ film off of its Novemeber release schedule and instead releasing it next July to take advantage of skimpy competition in the summer, fans of the massively popular franchise were lighting up the Internet with their rage. Thousands of fans signed online petitions, others organized boycotts and assorted protests, and a vast number expressed their reaction with tears or clenched fists. At Petitionspot.com, more than 12,000 fans had signed a demand that ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,’ in post-production in London, be returned to the long-promoted November date. In comments posted, it was clear that Warner Bros. Chairman Alan Horn had, for a day at least, replaced Voldemort as the main villian in the hearts of ‘Potter’ fans, who often call themselves Muggles, which means a nonmagical mortal in the Potter parlance. Fans such as 25-year-old Brooklyn resident Patrick Allen promised marches on the corporate offices of Warner. ‘They are doing this for no other reason than to make more money,’ he wrote in an e-mail to The Times. ‘This is ridiculous, and I assure you that the millions of Harry Potter fans who have been looking forward to this release will not stand for it. We don’t want to be pacified. We want the movie, as promised, this November.’ The ‘Potter’ films, based on the books of J.K. Rowling, have grossed more than $1.4 billion in the U.S. alone. As of press time, Rowling had not commented publicly on the postponement. Warner Bros. this summer released ‘The Dark Knight,’ now the second-highest grossing film ever, and ‘Half-Blood Prince’ will now be released in that same mid-July slot next year.

There is a lot of anger over this move, and it’s going to be interesting to see if there’s a backlash against Warner. Denise Martin here at Hero Complex gave you the rundown Thursday on the early tumult, and it’s just getting worse today. The problem is, what can fans really do? Certainly they could boycott the film, but I have to wonder if they will hold on to that kind of resolve between now and next summer. Also, some of the youngest fans of the movies just want to see it so badly that they will line up no matter what.
Where is J.K. Rowling on all this? David Heyman, the producer of the ‘Potter’ films, told me during my set visit this year that he and Warner Bros. consult with the author and the key decisions about the franchise (she was, for instance, in favor of splitting the final book into two films, Heyman told me, and that move would not have been made without her assent).
There’s so much fan-love for the franchise, Warner Bros. probably assumes that it can do this now, take some heat and then come back next summer with a massive success in a fairly wide-open summer because of the recent writers strike (so many films were postponed or called off that next summer will be the lagging indicator of that Hollywood shutdown).
That said, Warner Bros. might be playing with fire here by putting money ahead of its faithful consumers. As I said, there are a lot of angry people today. Here some e-mails I’ve gotten:

Geoff,

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Horn’s move makes no sense. Because The Dark Knight is so successful, he’s going to space out the next Harry Potter movie because it’s a guaranteed success? He’s worried that he’ll have a strong fiscal 2008 but fall short in 2009. Maybe a smart move for WB’s stockholders but without loyal audiences, Warner Brothers wouldn’t have anything to give their stockholders. Horn and Warner Brothers should focus on making better films instead of manipulating the numbers and manipulating their audiences/customers in the process. If I knew there was a chance that my seeing the latest Batman movie would delay the next Harry Potter film, I would have waited for Batman to come out on DVD or skipped it all together. Knowing this kind of blatent disregard for the movie goer is going to be the standard business practice for Warner Brothers will give me no option but to boycott future Warner Brother films.

Sincerely, Richard Lohrey

This one from Francois Tuvul:

You love your money not your fans! and we’re not your fans we are Harry Potter fans, if it weren’t for JK Rowling you would have never make a penny off Harry Potter!! Bring it back to November 21st or we’ll boycott your movies! We have 10,000+ signatures http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/harrypotter6/signatures/pg/1

And this from Allison Cardinal:

Mr. Boucher-I think in the interest of two-sided journalism, it would be interesting if you went to a couple of dedicated Harry Potter fansite - my favorite being Mugglenet.com - read some of the comments that were posted about this article (not against your writing, but against the statements of WB) and write another article about how exactly the fans are responding to the WB’s bull... attitude towards the series and the fans.Not only has the WB and David Heyman failed to produce films that merit the money it makes (and thankfully Hollywood hasn’t also been blinded by the crappy film-making and awarded it any kind of acclaim it most certainly doesn’t deserve) but it can’t even keep 12 year olds happy.I, for one, would love to see the fans get a voice for once instead of the guy with a big paycheck and a publicist.Sincerely,Just a HP fan who mourns the day JKR gave rights to these people

And one Joanne Munie:

Hey Geoff,Thanks for printing that article in the LA Times. It gave me a huge laughto hear what WB President Alan Horn had to say, wish I could believe a wordof anything that fell out of his mouth, but I don’t.It is much appreciated that the press is getting this story out -- I for oneam a very unhappy Potter fan today. I will go see the movie, but the lusterhas worn off for me now. This was my favorite book and now I’m sodisappointed I can hardly stand it.Thanks!Joanne

Tony Tribby in Virgina had an interesting take:

Hi Geoff,Next time you are speaking to a movie studio rep who is whining about money they lose to people downloading their films off the internet, you might want to point to actions like this as one of the reasons why.Yes, they are a business, but they also must be aware that a large share of the revenue they reap from vehicles like the Harry Potter franchise is based on the intense loyalty of the fans--who can also choose to walk away when they are so blatantly reminded that, to the studio, all they are is a source of revenue. This move is going to chill the excitement of those fans, and I’d wager the resulting loss in repeat viewings is going to offset whatever revenue gains they expect to pick up by moving the film to next summer.I also expect to see a petition soon where people will at the very least pledge to boycott the movie on opening weekend.Tony TribbyAlexandria, Virginia

These are just a few of the e-mails; there’s a huge crush of them in my queue. Thanks for writing in, and we’ll keep on top of this.
-- Geoff Boucher
RELATED All Hero Complex coverage of ‘Harry Potter’ and the ‘Great Muggle Rebellion of 2008'

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.


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