Hollywood asks: who needs Harry Potter?

Fri Aug 29, 2008 4:27pm EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Boy wizard Harry Potter won't be whipping up his magic when the fall film season begins next week, but Hollywood is hoping momentum from summer hits like "The Dark Knight" and a wide mix of new movies will keep audiences happy into the holidays.

Two weeks ago, Warner Bros. yanked "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" from a November release and pushed it to next July, which could spell trouble at box offices because the previous four "Potter" films averaged $920 million in worldwide ticket sales. That is a lot of movie magic.

But a range of films from broad comedies such as "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" to thrillers like "Eagle Eye" and art house fare including "Flash of Genius" could sustain the summer upswing, studio executives and box office watchers said.

"You've got it all," said Paul Dergarabedian of box office tracker Media By Numbers, when assessing the outlook from September through mid-November, when the new James Bond flick, "Quantum of Solace," kicks off holiday season moviegoing.

Last year, Hollywood also came off a strong summer after raking in a record $4.18 billion in North American receipts, but then came a slate filled with war films such as "In the Valley of Elah" and dark dramas that tanked at box offices.

When the summer movie season officially ends on Monday's U.S. Labor Day holiday, box office watchers again expect a summer tally of over $4 billion. A good chunk of that comes from the blockbuster Batman sequel "The Dark Knight."

This fall Hollywood seems to have learned a lesson from its bleak 2007 as it dishes up such light-hearted entries as Joel and Ethan Coen's wacky new comedy "Burn After Reading" starring Brad Pitt and George Clooney; the animated sequel "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa"; and Disney's latest teen confection, "High School Musical 3: Senior Year."

On a more serious note, Clint Eastwood provocative thriller, "Changeling," starring Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich, will also make its commercial debut.   Continued...

<p>Daniel Craig as James Bond and Olga Kurylenko as Camille in a scene from "Quantum of Solace" in an image courtesy of MGM/Columbia Pictures. REUTERS/Handout</p>