It’s not personal, just business
Aug 16, 2008
So shortly after 4pm, Thursday, August 14, I get an email containing a link to a story on Marketwatch.com Now the fact that I get an email is nothing new because all of us at Leaky get literally hundreds of emails a day. I took a glance at the headline, paused for just a moment, skimmed it quickly, and immediately went to post. I typed up the post, still not fully believing what I was writing, but knowing all the while it was certainly true. I’ve had this experience before in “real life” news, but this one was a doozy by Potter standards. I went to hit post, then thought Oh I better call Melly first to see if she wanted to post (and she did and was doing so when I rang), but during the two minutes I was on the phone with her, I got at least ten more owls from various sites and readers, then 3 texts and at least 2 incoming calls all the same time, all asking the same one question: IS THIS REALLY TRUE? I hung up with Melissa, the post when up and then I waited. In the meantime I took one of those calls, from a former colleague who now works for a large online wire service and he chortled: “Rotten luck eh? We are all waiting to see how long till your website melts and your fandom explodes.”
and they did. both things.
Soon every website had the news up, there were scores of twitters and updated my status on facebook over my dubiousness over the thing that was causing such a flurry of reaction: WB postponed the release of “Half-Blood Prince” until July 17 of next year.
As I was reading the official press release from WB, I could not help be reminded in force of one of my favorite movies, “The Godfather.” You know the scene/lines that are repeated throughout the Trilogy that later find their way into our social conscious: It’s nothing personal, just business.
I kept hearing this over and over in my head as I read the statements, then later attempts by Mr. Horn, and really he did not deny it at all. It was in fact to use his words “new windows of opportunity that we wanted to take advantage of” that said it all. Nothing personal, just a business move. The folks at IMAX pretty much said the same thing too. So perhaps it may be a surprise that this Hufflepuff should be so cynical, but really when it comes down to it, in my personal opinion, I am fully and always always aware that WB is a corporation, and making money is their bottom line. WB is a US based company, and we have a system where generating money, and in this case literally billions of dollars, is not taken lightly. Sure its OK to be upset at first, but I believe that once the initial emotion of the moment passes, many will see that this move was all about WB taking advantage of the “Dark Knight” bonanza gift they have, and seriously trying to make huge amounts of money by moving it to a time frame when really, there are not too many other HUGE films out there like there are now (and yea I know Will Ferrell and Co at “Land of the Lost” are probably none to happy about this move since they
as of now are still slated to open that same weekend) Regardless, I kept hearing Michael Corleone’s voice -its nothing personal , over and over as I watched the message boards, twitters, texts, etc all explode with this news…..(ok I admit, I ALSO HEARD MONEY MONEY MONEY from the dreadful “Mamma Mia” movie playing in my head too lol) I tried to express all of this to some extent that will be in our next PotterCast, but if they had just come out and said plainly, look this is a business decision, plain and simple, and not tried to spin it with the summer time/family stuff, I genuinely believe it would not have been met with such anger and resistance-sure people would naturally be upset, but I really did not care for that added attempt to try and deflect what I feel is the basis-a monetary influenced decision. Be upfront and people are more likely to respond to you more favorably has always been my belief.
Anyway, as the multitudes exploded with anger and disbelief and frustration at the news of the change of release date, and the opinion that WB is some sort of heartless Scrooge based type company, equal to Voldemort from some of the comments, seemed to be shared by many literally everywhere I went-in comments to newspapers, on scores of blogs, movie sites, etc. Others were more cynical saying they dont care about their fans and that WB would remain uneffected by this because they know they have the fans where they want them.
Sure we are a fandom, large and unafraid to express our opinions (remember the flap over the missing comma in a poster? or the wrong date on the Riddle gravestone?) Within an hour I must have received ten Facebook group invites all protesting, seeking to boycott or petition WB. While I applaud these efforts, I’m afraid the cynic in me seeks this having little to no effect. Yes this makes me sad, but I am also one of those people who will wait to see it
Now herein lies a point that is really foremost in my mind. The move puts the film back EIGHT MORE MONTHS. That is a long time to try and keep something-a film, trailers, stills, scripts, twists surprises etc- SECRET and build up suspense, anticipation what have you to go see the film when it opens on July 17, 2009. Ironically though, WB may not have had all the troops in place when preparing to drop this bomb on everyone, as Entertainment Weekly-owned by the way by TimeWarner-had already gone to press with their first set visit report, which contained many new goodies that ordinarily would have caused a frenzy of delighted reaction. I mean, THE UNBREAKABLE VOW-that moment, so intense, so anticipated by many (including me) Snape, Bellatrix and Narcissa there it was for all of us to see, and what was the reaction? I DONT CARE….
agggh. heartbreak again, only on a different level. There were also nuggets that Kloves had turned in his first draft of the screenplay for “Deathly Hallows Part One” and was at work on Part two, plus his comment that the break was at a place he didn’t anticipate-SAY WHAT?- and that normally would have given fans much to mull over. More curious to me was the fact that we saw a fair number of other unconfirmed yet new and almost surely from the film photos, and WB didnt even blink. They were everywhere. WON WON AND LAV LAV, Harry and Ginny. I know everyone is upset at the moment, but where are the shippers lol? Come on, I enjoy these conversations, lets bring it back on!
So now I find myself wondering too from my news editor point of view, given we have eight more months to go, how on earth is WB going to contain all the trailers, the promo shots, the clips, the music, the website, the usual round of their huge amount of marketing materials they make for these films, and hold on to them, to generate enough buzz again eight months from now. Thats always our challenge at the fansites, bringing everyone these (and yea WB likes to let us know that some of things need to come down) but now I wonder how do they realistically hope to contain all of this, when frankly so much of the Jeannie is already out of the bottle so to speak?
I believe fans will of course turn out in droves next July- I will, but will I feel as excited as I was just a few days ago? I mean, we are a fandom that owns multiple copies of the books, collect everything we can on the series, own the DVDs, soundtracks, video games, dolls, we make crafts of all sorts, sport every house robes, go to conventions, attend midnight release parties-all because we love this series so. Sure we do have much to look forward to as the new edition of Sorcerer’s Stone is coming out next month, then Beedle the Bard in December=NEW CANON EVERYONE, that’s always a bonus, but still will it honestly be enough to regenerate the level of excitement we had at this point? Perhaps they are counting on opening up the filming progress of Deathly Hallows- PRODUCTION DIARY WB PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE? or maybe they will issue the long hoped for extended DVDs -although frankly, its just business so I see that coming after the Deathly Hallows are released alas. Dunno what attempts to pacify us Mr Horn was referring to, but the next few months will prove to be interesting to me to see how WB is going to handle this. I do believe that once our fandom has a time to recover there will be a renewal of interest in the movie series, but I sure as heck would hate to be in the marketing department’s shoes right now.