Relax, Potterheads. All is well. Yes, beginning on Dec. 29, Warner Bros. is halting shipments of Harry Potter DVDs and Blu-rays to Walmart and Amazon and other stores. But discs aren’t being immediately swept from the shelves. “Even though there could be a sense of urgency from the consumers’ perspective, there will be Potter product come the first of the year,” says Jeff Baker, senior vp and general manager of Warner Bros.’ Theatrical Catalog. “But over time, they’ll be less and less of that inventory. 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.”
Even with its gradual disappearance from store shelves, the Potter franchise will remain available in other forms, like video-on-demand and digital download. “The idea is not to let Harry Potter dissipate. There are exhibits around the world. There’s the Harry Potter World [i.e. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter] in Orlando,” says Baker. “There are a lot of things that are Harry Potter that are going to be available to consumers well into the future, and we certainly want a home entertainment component to those grand plans.”
This isn’t the first time that Warner Bros. has pulled a popular title from its catalog. The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, and Blade Runner have all vanished from time to time — to then be reintroduced with great fanfare. Disney, of course, is famous for making its classic films drop out of sight from time to time so that it can later make a splash with a new generation of fans.
Warner Bros. doesn’t intend to wait as long, and there are already plans to “eventize” Potter’s return. “There is discussion internally about aggregating assets from all of these films over the last decade and adding some new things — we’ve never done an Ultimate Edition on the final two films — and doing some grand kind of piece,” says Baker. “It could be the end of 2012 or the beginning of ’13.”
Got that, Muggles? Yes, you might want to rush out and purchase The Complete 8-Film Edition when it is released Nov. 11. But even that “complete” set of films will soon be surpassed by another, more complete Harry Potter video collection. So, is this good news or bad news for Potter fans? You decide.