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Harry Potter Inc: Warner Bros’ $21B Empire

Final Harry Potter Already Wrecking Foreign/Domestic Records

EXCLUSIVE: With history’s most successful movie franchise coming to an end with the Friday release of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, it’s a good time to ask: How much loot was conjured up en masse? And the answer is startling. You can find about $21 billion by adding up gross sales the series has generated since 1998 from films, videos, video games, licensed merchandise, and books. (See detailed breakdown below.) Time Warner has already seen an estimated $1 billion in profit from the films and its work as custodian of a global entertainment brand. The tally should continue to grow, probably by a lot, with the release tomorrow of Warner Bros’ Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 2 — although Hollywood accounting has a way of making profits vanish. (Here‘s how the black magic worked for Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix in a studio accounting statement obtained by Deadline’s Mike Fleming. Though the film grossed $938.2 million worldwide, the document conveys that the film is still $167+ million in the red)

Things have turned out so well that it’s easy to forget what a huge risk Warner seemed to be taking more than a decade ago when it bought the Potter rights. The studio didn’t know how the series would end. And J.K. Rowling, who wrote the series, was a wild card. Many wondered whether U.S. audiences would warm to the all-British movie cast that Rowling required.  “The casting of the kids was the biggest place where it could have gone wrong,” Warner Bros Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov tells me. Some Warner executives also chafed at Rowling’s demands that there be no Potter-related fast food offerings and that Warner show restraint in product licensing. “I can only say now to all the parents out there, if the action figures are horrible, just tell the kids that I said don’t buy them. Sorry, Warners,” Rowling told a 60 Minutes interview.

Virtually everybody agrees now that Rowling was right to keep the franchise faithful to her vision. And Warner was right to embrace that vision down to small details in licensed merchandise. “We had a guideline that was perhaps frustrating to our colleagues in Consumer Products but has held well for us as a company which was to look to create artifacts, not souvenirs,” DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson tells me. She oversaw the Potter franchise from the beginning. Marketing plans also adapted as fans became older and the Potter saga grew darker. “We held on to fans as they aged in a way that’s never been seen before,” Nelson says to me.

Here’s how all of the Potter business decisions have turned out so far:

Movies. The first seven films accounted for nearly $6.4 billion in ticket sales, with 68% of the total coming from overseas, according to Box Office Mojo. The only other franchise that comes close is James Bond: Its 23 films beat Potter if ticket prices are adjusted for inflation.

Home Video. Consumers have spent nearly $3.9 billion globally — with 44% of that coming from the U.S. — to buy 302 million videos of the first six Potter films, Warner says. IHS Screen Digest says that Warner probably collected about $1.5 billion just from domestic video sales, which would more than cover the studio’s estimated $1.4 billion production budget for all eight films. Read More »

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More Shake-Ups Inside DC Entertainment

Everyone expected fallout from last month’s announcement: DC Entertainment Relocates Film, Television And Digital Operations To Burbank. Now I’ve confirmed what the Bleeding Cool website reported first and asked me to post: that three major DC Entertainment execs are exiting – Richard Bruning, currently SVP and Creative Director; Cheryl Rubin, SVP of Brand Management; and Steve Rotterdam, SVP of Marketing and Sales. This is obviously a major shakeup at the company Diane Nelson runs for Warner Bros. But with new movement on Batman 3, Superman 2, Green Lantern, and now Wonder Woman (neither Watchmen nor Jonah Hex were on her watch), the exec who led the Harry Potter franchise so successfully is putting her stamp on the DC Comic characters now after years of screwed-up development. This is terrible for departing DC personnel, but great for reanimated and rebooted and maybe even brand spanking new franchises.

According to Bleeding Cool, Bruning was a longtime DC Comics employee who not only designed the current company logo but also the titles on Watchmen and The Dark Knight and others. Rubin controlled worldwide licensing for DC properties and franchises including Batman and Superman across all media. She also is co-chair of the Time Warner Women’s Network, a NYC group that works for the professional development and networking of Time Warner female employees. Rotterdam was a relatively recent hire of 3 years.

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Gregory Noveck Leaving DC Entertainment

EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that an internal memo just went out at DC Entertainment announcing that Gregory Noveck will be transitioning out of his job over the next three months. He’ll be resuming his producing career. Noveck spent the past 6 years with DC Comics as SVP of creative affairs, hired by president/publisher Paul Levitz to help mine the library of DC properties for movie and other media adaptation until Diane Nelson took over the newly created DC Entertainment last September to better integrate DC’s theatrical and TV releases with Warner Bros.

Noveck was most hands-on with the DC Universe line of direct-to-video animation, and also the production of the Secret Origin: The Story Of DC Comics documentary, and, most notably, the upcoming film Red. He’s an executive producer on that Summit Entertainment release this October adapted to the big screen from Warren Ellis’ and Cully Hamner’s comic book.

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DC Comics Has Ruined Wonder Woman!

DEADLINE EXCLUSIVE: Don Kramer’s Wonder Woman

dc comicsDC Comics announced that, starting today, Wonder Woman “will appear like you’ve never seen her before”. And I wish they’d just left her alone, especially since she’s the only comic book character female I’ve ever admired. Of course, it took a bunch of men to ruin her. Look at the new costume design by DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee below: she looks ready for Goth Day at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. (Shame on Diane Nelson, the head of DC Entertainment, for allowing this to happen. And for not finding a talented woman writer now as in years past to update the icon’s saga.) Here’s the announcement about the dumbass stuff that DC Comics is doing to her. So let me start the campaign: FREE WONDER WOMAN!

WW_costumeDC Comics Co-Publisher and bestselling artist Jim Lee has redesigned her costume for the modern era, just in time for BABYLON 5 creator and critically acclaimed writer J. Michael Straczynski and artists Don Kramer and Michael Babinski to launch the Amazon Princess into an exciting and epic new era of adventure.

Starting with their story in WONDER WOMAN #600, which is in comic shops today, Straczynski and Kramer will begin a run that is both forward-looking and true to the legendary character, planting her firmly in the modern era.

Here’s what J. Michael Straczynski had to

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