Black Hangar Studios — a 32,000-square-foot spread in Basingstoke, about a 40-minute train ride from London — was unveiled Wednesday. The UK is increasingly building its studio infrastructure. Warner Bros will launch the Leavesdon studios in June; that 500,000-square-foot facility, where all of the Harry Potter films were shot, is about 20 minutes from central London and has an 80-acre backlot. Also nearby London is the venerable Pinewood studios, which has recently been playing host to the latest James Bond pic Skyfall and to Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables.
Will grownups stand in line, the way young Harry Potter fans did, to be among the first to get their hands on what the author calls her “blackly comic” tale when it’s released on September 27? Rowling says on her web site that it’s her first novel for adults. Hachette will release The Casual Vacancy in the US, with Little, Brown Book Group doing so in the UK. It will be published worldwide in English in hardback, ebook, an unabridged audio download and on CD. The book runs about 480 pages, according to Little, Brown. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of seven books sold over 450 million copies in 200 territories and 74 languages worldwide, spawning a pop culture gold mine and a lucrative movie franchise from Warner Bros. Here’s Rowling’s synopsis of her new book:
Now that Harry has hung up his Firebolt, Warner is looking to keep the multi-billion dollar franchise alive. Welcome to The Warner Bros Studio Tour London – The Making Of Harry Potter, a new attraction that opens today at its Leavesden studios in Watford, England. There, Muggles will get a glimpse at the behind-the-scenes magic of the films right where they were shot. As time wears on, however, it’s likely that interest in Potter will wane – but Warner says there’s a plan for that too.
When Warner Bros acquired film rights to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, lore has it the author insisted on an all-British cast and that all films be shot in the UK. Ten years later, the highest-grossing film series in history has had a huge impact on the British economy – and on Warner Bros’ bottom line. In June 2010, London mayor Boris Johnson penned an editorial in The Telegraph decrying the fact that a Potter theme park was to open in Orlando rather than in Harry’s own backyard. He wrote: “This Potter business has legs. It will run and run, and we must be utterly mad, as a country, to leave it to the Americans to make money from a great British invention.”
Fast-forward 18 months and Johnson was waving a wand at Ollivander’s shop on the Potter tour’s Diagon Alley. A coincidence? Warner’s Sarah Roots, VP of the tour, tells me the idea of a film based attraction at the Leavesden studios has been in the pipeline for quite a few years and that Harry Potter has been such a part of the studio’s heritage, “it made sense to launch the attraction with Harry Potter.” The opening of the tour is timed to coincide with the start of Easter break for British school kids. Warner is eyeing up to 5,000 visitors per day on staggered tours that last about 3 hours. Roots says tickets for the first period have sold well and that first visitors are expected to be mostly UK residents with more overseas interest next year. As with all tourist destinations in the UK this summer, Warner is hoping for a residual Olympics effect.
Just ahead of the planned early April launch of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s full Pottermore site for all things Hogwarts, e-book and audio book versions of all seven Harry Potter books were made available today on the site. This is the first time the Potter books are available in digital formats. So far only the US and UK versions of the phenomenally successful book series are being offered. French, Italian, German and Spanish editions are due soon. Priced at $7.99-$9.99 for e-books, $29.99-$44.99 for audio editions, the digital editions are only available through the Pottermore site. They are compatible with Apple’s iPad/iPod line, Amazon’s Kindle, Google’s Play, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Sony’s Reader and other major e-readers. Although the multi-billion-dollar Harry Potter film franchise was produced and distributed by Warner Bros., the e-book store on Pottermore is a collaboration with Sony. The full but long-delayed Pottermore site will feature an online Potter encyclopedia, social networking opportunities, games and an even more robust online store.
The Harry Potter series made author J.K. Rowling one of Britain’s richest citizens and now the writer is ready to tread new literary territory with her new book geared toward adults. Publication for the new novel and further details are being kept under wraps until later this year, but Rowling said through the book’s publisher Little, Brown and Co that the new novel she is presumably still writing will be a departure from Potter: “Although I’ve enjoyed writing it every bit as much, my next book will be very different to the Harry Potter series, which has been published so brilliantly by Bloomsbury and my other publishers around the world. The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry’s success has brought me, and with that new territory it seemed a logical progression to have a new publisher. I am delighted to have a second publishing home in Little, Brown, and a publishing team that will be a great partner in this new phase of my writing life.” Published between 1997 and 2007, Rowling’s Harry Potter series of seven books sold over 450 million copies in 200 territories and 74 languages worldwide, spawning a pop culture gold mine and a lucrative movie franchise from Warner Bros that concluded with 2011′s Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2. J.K. Little, Brown publisher David Shelley will be Rowling’s editor and publish the untitled novel in Britain, while Michael Pietsch, EVP of …
Cast already teased “Jersey Shore Harry Potter” in cold open here which wasn’t very funny, either. Nothing like starting 2012 on a lame note:
Harry Potter will materialize sometime in the future in Universal City with his own special section of the theme park much like “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal Orlando Resort. NBC Universal is expected to announce plans for the Potter addition within a week, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Harry Potter site in Florida includes a Hogwarts Castle, roller coasters, and several Potter-themed restaurants. In the year after it opened, the Harry Potter attraction in Florida drew an additional 1.1 million visitors for a total of 2.8 million and revenue nearly doubled to $309 million, the Journal said. If the Hollywood Harry Potter succeeds, additional attractions could be added to Universal parks in Japan, Singapore and Spain. Universal licensed the Harry Potter theme park rights for the Orlando Resort from Warner Bros. for an undisclosed sum. A similar deal is likely for Universal Studios Hollywood. WB also receives royalties on merchandise. The Hollywood Harry Potter and any others also will require the consent of author J.K. Rowling, as did the park in Florida.
Is Alexandre Desplat the new hardest working man in show business? The prolific French composer who has had four Oscar nominations in the last five years is just coming off his busiest year since gaining international notoriety in 2003 with Girl With A Pearl Earring. Since then he has been one of, if not the most in-demand composers in the business with a remarkable output that made me tired just reading all the titles. Those Oscar-nominated scores, The King’s Speech, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Queen are just a tiny sample of the nearly 60 scores he has written in the last 10 years, a decade of major achievement for the now-50 year old Desplat who can probably safely say life really does start at 40. He has actually been actively composing for films for a quarter century but has only become an international household name in movie music circles since 2003. When I sat down with him at a small dinner last week he was in town just for 36 hours and between back-to-back Q&As with his The Ides of March director George Clooney. That morning he had just completed the score for Stephen Daldry’s Christmas release, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It was a rush job to be sure as he was brought in as a last minute replacement for the film’s first composer, Nico Muhly ( who despite having composed Daldry’s The Reader as well as serving as a music coordinator …
Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that film tax relief will be extended for four more years until the end of December 2015. It had been due to expire March next year. The UK tax break is worth 16% of the budgets of Hollywood movies shooting over here, and 20% of the budgets for local films. The news is designed to re-assure Hollywood that the UK is still the place to shoot big-budget movies. Recent Hollywood productions that have shot at Pinewood Studios include Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows and Snow White and the Huntsman. The tax break has been worth $151 million to producers over the most recent financial year, supporting over $1.6 billion spent on 208 UK-qualifying films.
Harry Potter fans take heart. Just because Warner Bros says it won’t ship more DVDs or Blu-rays after December 29, that doesn’t mean Hogwarts will immediately vanish from physical or virtual shelves. Or that it won’t be available for streaming, video-on-demand or downloading. “There will be Potter product come the first of the year,” says Jeff Baker, SVP/GM of Warner Bros’ Theatrical Catalog. “Over time, there’ll be less and less of that inventory,” Baker told EW. “At some point, whether it’s next April or May or June or July, it’ll probably be very difficult to find Harry Potter product, especially if you’re looking for the third movie or the fifth movie, for example.” Pulling classics out of circulation, even a big hit like the Potter movies, isn’t uncommon. Disney has been doing it forever with animated classics that are re-issued a few years hence in newer, “enhanced” or digitally remastered versions with more extras. Warner Bros has done it too with catalog titles such as The Wizard Of Oz, Gone With The Wind, and Blade Runner — only to be reintroduced with a big splash. Even Harry Potter: The Complete 8 Film Collection, which hits stores November 11, won’t include “an Ultimate Edition on the final two films,” which means there inevitably will be “some grand kind of piece” Baker says could come at “the end of 2012 or the beginning of ’13.”
HAMMOND: Woody Allen, Brad Pitt, ‘The Help’ & Cast Among Early 2011 Leading Oscar Contenders; Can They Hang On?
OK, I’ll say it: If the Oscars were held today (nearly two-thirds of the way through 2011) Woody Allen could have another Best Picture winner. Of course the 84th Academy Awards aren’t being held yet and we are still four and a half months away from the end of eligibility. But as I embark on the fall season beginning with the Venice + Telluride + Toronto film festivals it’s time to take a look at where things stand and where things are going. First up in this series of posts: Is there anything released so far in 2011 with a realistic chance to ultimately win Best Picture? Or at the very least earn a nomination? Remember, new rules say from 5 to 10 films could be nominated, meaning each nominee can’t get there without receiving at least 300 first place votes in the nominating process. Conventional wisdom is that films released in the first 8 months of the year are at a tremendous disadvantage to those coming out in the fall and holiday season. Last year no eventual winner in the top 8 categories was released before October — and 7 of those winners came out on or after Thanksgiving. Then again some recent Best Pic winners like The Hurt Locker (2010) and Crash (2005) came from the first half of their respective years. Other classic Best Pic champs like Patton, The Godfather, …
Tuesday night is a big one for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They hold their annual election for president (expect current prexy Tom Sherak to be easily re-elected for his third and final one-year term) and they will choose the 2011 recipients of the Governors Awards, which will be some combination of Honorary Oscars, The Irving G. Thalberg Award and/or the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. At that meeting, Sherak could also tell the board who is going to produce the 84th Annual Academy Awards among the other things that may come up, including proposals to further regulate Oscar-season campaigning and parties (a move inspired by and initiated in part because of my Jan. 7 Deadline article on the issue, I am told by an Academy insider involved with the new proposals).
Even though recipients of last year’s 2nd Annual Governors Awards, (Jean-Luc Godard, Eli Wallach, Kevin Brownlow and Thalberg winner Francis Ford Coppola) weren’t announced until the last week in August a year ago, Sherak told me he is determined to get this done at the early August meeting this year in order to give Governors Awards producer Phil Robinson more time to put all the logistics of the event together; the ceremony is set for Saturday Nov. 12 and is not televised.
This all leads to the annual game of who will and who should get these prized awards, which were created in 2009 as their own separate show so more of them could be handed out and there would be more time to celebrate the careers of the recipients than during the time-crunched Oscar show. In the recent past, before the creation of the event, the Academy’s board had been limiting presentation of the Honorary awards to one per show. The Jean Hersholt Award to Jerry Lewis was the last given, on the (81st) Oscar telecast. Since then, they have handed out the maximum of four of these honors at each Governors Awards dinner. Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman, cinematographer Gordon Willis and Thalberg winner John Calley received the inaugural awards.
In terms of who will win them this year, it’s anybody’s guess as each of the 43 Governors of every branch has an opportunity to put a name in contention if they wish and a simple majority is generally all that’s required to make someone a winner. It’s clear the Academy likes diversity, repping all corners of the motion picture arts and sciences, and it seems like they have been favoring people who are still active. Wallach may have been 95 when he finally got his Honorary Oscar last year, but he is also still working.
For years, every time the board set about voting for these honors some subtle (and not-so-subtle) lobbying would take place. Veteran stars like Glenn Ford and Richard Widmark were often mentioned but never got the call despite annual letters and pleas on their behalf. Doris Day’s name always comes up in speculation about Honorary Oscars, but it’s never happened and the reclusive 87-year-old star hasn’t made a film since 1968. Director Jules Dassin had his supporters at one time on the board but went to his grave without getting the big honor. On the other hand, a large profile piece on producer Dino De Laurentiis that was (coincidentally?) placed in the L.A. Times on the morning of the selections in 2000 certainly couldn’t have hurt his chances when he was voted the Thalberg later that day.
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has acquired screen rights to A Discovery of Witches, the bestselling novel by Deborah Harkness. Denise DiNovi and Allison Greenspan will produce. The debut novel is about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch and a mysterious manuscript that draws them together. They’ll put a writer on it right away as the studio looks for more opportunities to tap the fantasy vein now that the Harry Potter series has concluded. In fact, the success of that final Potter installment has every studio foraging for the next young adult franchise. Harkness is writing this as a trilogy and the second installment, Shadow of Night, will be published by Viking next summer. Harkness was repped by CAA, which made the deal for the Frances Goldin Literary Agency.
This weekend Harry Potter proved he can rule the worldwide box office in a big way but can he wave his magic wand at the Academy and get a Best Picture nomination to put a cherry on the Potter pie? “The Academy has never really favored us in that way before. I’m just happy that people seem to be liking the movie,” David Yates, director of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II told me on the eve on Potter’s phenomenal opening. Last week I also asked the same question of Chris Columbus , director of the first two Harry Potter flicks. Does he think now that the final chapter has been written on the most successful franchise in film history that the Academy will finally recognize it with a prized Best Pic nod? “You never know about these things,” he said shrugging his shoulders but considering the Oscar track record of the previous seven Potters I could tell he wasn’t putting money down on the prospect anytime soon.
But why not? Although the Academy historically shuns this type of film and doesn’t favor fantasy, sci-fi or kid flicks you can point to the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and say there is an exception to every rule. Between 2001 and 2003 the three Rings films racked up a total of 30 Oscar nominations including an unprecedented three Best Picture nods …
Never mind the strong upfront ad sales for broadcast and cable networks. The slowing economy is “finally starting to impact marketers’ budgets,” UBS Investment Research analyst John Janedis said in a report today as he downgraded his investment recommendations for Discovery Communications and Time Warner and lowered his stock-price targets for Scripps Networks and Viacom. He says the cheering from upfront sales will be short-lived: Broadcasters sold $9.3 billion in inventory, up about 6% from last year, while he expects cable networks to record about $9.2 billion in orders, up about 15% from last year. But advertisers will cancel a lot of those orders later this year. The scatter market “has finally started to slow, which could impact results as early as” the third quarter, he says. Janedis also is concerned about the declining ratings at broadcast networks and says that “cable is also at risk of losing a portion of its audience to other platforms” including online services such as Netflix. The fears about slowing ad sales led him to change his view of Discovery and Time Warner to “neutral” from “buy.” Time Warner has an additional problem in film. With the soft start to Green Lantern, “the success of (Time Warner’s) superhero strategy in a post-Harry Potter world is not a foregone conclusion,” Janedis says.
The 2nd trailer for the final Harry Potter film was released today. (Here‘s the first one from April.) Warner Bros is releasing the film in the U.S. on July 15.
Wall Street’s backlash against 3D movies is growing serious. Just weeks after movie executives and investors wondered how well 3D films would do this summer, they’ve begun to ask much tougher questions including: When will movie theater chains begin to cancel orders for 3D projection equipment? And could continued weakening in ticket sales force AMC Entertainment to shelve its plan to go public and raise as much as $450 million?
Defenders of the technology are urging everyone to wait and see whether there’s an uptick in 3D ticket sales for Paramount’s Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, which opens July 1, and Warner Bros’ Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part II, which opens July 15. The films should “help provide for a more positive outlook” for 3D in general and particularly for 3D technology company RealD, says Merriman Capital analyst Eric Wold.
But investors didn’t appear to agree on Friday. RealD’s stock price fell 13.2% to $20.90 the day after executives responded to the Street’s concerns with talking points that simply urged people not to read too much into disappointing 3D sales for just a few films. RealD shares now have lost 41.3% of their value since May 19. “While management dismisses a change in consumer enthusiasm toward 3D, the public is speaking and 3D is simply being overused with ticket premiums far too high,” says BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield — who has a “sell” rating on RealD.
Will ‘Cars’ Move More Merchandise Than ‘Toy Story 3′? Either Way, Disney Will Remain The World’s No. 1 Licensor
Consumers worldwide spent $2.4 billion last year on merchandise related to Toy Story 3, helping Disney to easily reclaim the No. 1 position on License! Global magazine’s annual tally of the top sellers of stuff emblazoned with trademarked characters and logos. Disney accounted for about $28.6 billion in sales of T-shirts, caps, toys, lunch boxes and other consumer goods, which comes to 15.5% of the total for the top 125 companies. The results would have been even more lopsided if the magazine had attributed to Disney the $5.6 billion in merchandise sales for Marvel Entertainment, which ended the year in sixth place. Disney’s poised to move a lot more stuff this year: Consumers have spent more than $8 billion since 2006 on goods related Pixar’s Cars. The release of Cars 2 could propel “the largest licensed merchandise program of the year” and make Cars “a true classic,” the magazine says. Other entertainment companies also did well in 2010. Warner Bros came in fifth with $6 billion in sales, and should top that sales figure this year with stuff related to Harry Potter and Green Lantern. Nickelodeon came in seventh with $5.5 billion. DreamWorks Animation was 16th with $3 billion, closely followed by Lucasfilm, which also generated $3 billion mostly from Star Wars merchandise. Cartoon Network was 24th with $2.4 billion. And 20th Century Fox was 26th with $2 billion. One tidbit: Get ready to see a lot of stuff emblazoned with …
There’s still not a lot of 3D programming on cable or broadcast to satisfy those first buyers of 3D televisions. But IHS Screen Digest says today that the technology is about to find a real foothold among fans of Blu-ray discs. Some 3.2 million homes this year will have the equipment needed to watch Blu-ray discs in 3D. That a 305% increase over last year. The 3D discs can be played on Sony’s PlayStation 3 consoles as well as 3D-enabled Blu-ray players. Hollywood, of course, sees a cash opportunity. Studios will release about 65 titles on 3D Blu-ray this year, IHS says. That total will include 15 from Disney such as Tron, Beauty And The Beast, and The Lion King. As a result, the research firm predicts that US consumers will spend $160.8 million this year on discs that provide 3D images to 3D-enabled TV sets. IHS figures that consumers will buy 5.7 million 3D discs at an average of $28.33 a pop. That contrasts with $28.4 million last year based on 900,000 discs selling for $31.09 apiece. The big reason for the increase is that 3D is catching on with early adopters. IHS adds that 3D discs are catching on in the UK, Germany, and France.