Considering the cash cow the Harry Potter franchise continues to be, the news that Warner Brothers is pulling the movies off the market definitely surprises me.
Even with the last Harry Potter film this summer, Warner Brothers and Potter creator J.K. Rowling will still be raking in big bucks for many years to come. So why stop the money train?
Well, there’s no clear cut answer that I can find, so I can speculate a little here and there, but here’s the facts as best I know them.
As reported on AV Club and everywhere else, Warner Brothers will stop selling the Harry Potter movies on December 29. This includes Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2, along with the box set Complete 8-Film Collection, both of which come out on November 11.
As AV Club's Sean O’Neal points out, this could be similar to what Disney does with its movies, where they put them out for a limited time, then yank them off the market for seven years until the next generation comes of age and will first discover them. (This is why Disney is especially tough on people that bootleg their films).
And - pure speculation on my part - this could also be another studio experiment to test the waters of where home entertainment is going, because the movies will still be available to download.
There’s also rumor Warners will bring back Potter down the road for special editions with new features, etc. A lot of fans probably have all the movies anyways, so it remains to be seen how the rest of them will sell, but the short window you’ll be able to buy the last Harry Potter and the box set should make a nice feeding frenzy before the holidays.
Again, who knows what Warner’s ultimate motivation for all this is? Fans everywhere are confounded, and the long-term game plan may not be clear for some time.
As NextMovie's Breanne Heldman speculated to MTV, "With all the Potter films out of theaters and permanently available for purchase on home video, the cash cow dies, and so does some of the excitement for the franchise... This way, a few years down the road when the movies get re-released, enthusiasm can (and will) reach a fever pitch again, and this will likely effect the sales of more than just Blu-rays."
MTV also reported that Harry Potter will indeed return to DVD, Blu-Ray, etc. in late 2012/early 2013, and by then there will be another special box set with the emphasis on special features. (I think we all know by now whenever we buy a DVD or Blu-Ray it’s not going to be the ultimate, end all and be all edition of a movie).
And as TheWrap notes, Time Warner’s third quarter earnings went up 57%, thanks to the company’s film division and Harry Potter, bringing the company’s revenues to $7.1 billion, with profits of $822 million. One can only imagine what kind of financial windfall the last minute rush for Harry Potter will create before he disappears for a year or more.