Like so many blockbusters lately it had been planned for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 to be shown in theaters in 3D. The announcement had not been unexpected, and the film was to undergo post conversion to 3D since it wasn’t shot in that format. However in a surprise turn-around THR has reported that Warner Bros no longer plans to release the film in 3D. Instead the film, which will be released to theaters on November 19th, will be shown only in traditional 2D format. What’s may be even more surprising than the announcement is the reason that was given.
Basically Warner Bros is canning the 3D conversion because they don’t feel it can be done in the time needed and be up to the standard they’ve set for themselves. The studio cited the issue that there simply aren’t enough 3D conversion houses running to get the work done well and on time. Warner Bros seems to have learned from its earlier mistake with Clash of the Titans. That film had undergone a rather hasty conversion to 3D and the results were not impressive, in fact most critics and audience members felt it made the movie going experience worse in that case. Rather than risk a similar back lash with their flagship film franchise Warner Bros had the choice to simply abandon the conversion. The notion of a studio making a choice like this out of what seems to be a genuine concern for the final product is rather unexpected.
It should be pointed out that even with the history of backlash against sub-par post conversion like with Clash of the Titans, or this summer’s The Last Airbender, this is still a surprising change in plans. Despite the 3D not enhancing the experiences in both of these cases it did unquestionably help their total box office. 3D screenings generally add at least $5 to the ticket price and help inflate the grosses. This is doubtless a major factor in Clash of the Titans earning nearly $500 million worldwide, and even the critically slammed The Last Airbender milked 3D to over $300 million global box-office. People would have gone to see the latest Harry Potter no matter what, and there’s little question that most movie goers would have paid the extra for the 3D screenings.
Not only did Warner Bros cut their potential profit, they also are losing the money that has already been put into the conversion. The process was in mid-stream when the studio pulled the plug so a not insubstantial amount of money had already been sunk into the 3-D conversion (naturally Warner Bros is not releasing how much had been spent.) Ultimately though this was the best choice that the studio could have made. The Harry Potter franchise has been carefully built up from it’s inception from just cashing in on the books to a full fledged cinematic event in it’s own right. Had this been the final film perhaps the executives at Warner Bros might just have gone all in with the conversion. However with one more entry coming next year this was not the time to burn the loyalty that’s been built up over the past 9 years.
It should be noted that Warner Bros is still committed to bringing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 to theaters in 3D. With that film not due to hit theaters until July of next year there should not be any issue with the 3D conversion meeting the standards that Part 1 wasn’t able to measure up to. The level of commitment that the studio has shown to doing this property justice has been quite astounding over the years, and this latest move just re-affirms that commitment.