10/09/2010 10:34 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Quality Over Commerce: Warner Bros. Declines to Release Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I in 3D. Will Release Part 7 on Nov 19th in 2D Only

In a somewhat shocking turnaround, Warner Bros. has announced today that they will be releasing the first portion of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 35mm and IMAX 2D only, with no 3D conversion. The studio is claiming that there will not be enough time to properly convert the feature in 3D at a quality level they are comfortable with. That probably translates as 'we've seen the blowback of conversions with Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender, and we don't want to risk our golden goose in such a manner'. The last thing that Warner Bros. wants is a parade of reviews exclaiming 'the movie is good, but the 3D is terrible!'. Those who don't care for 3D, and especially detest 3D conversions are no doubt applauding the decision. For what it's worth, good on Warner for opting for going for quality over commerce.

Even if the 3D conversation looked terrible, it wouldn't have stopped all that many fans from stampeding into a 3D theater on November 19th and plunking down that extra $5 per ticket. And with more and more films going 3D all at once, finding 2D options is becoming a challenge, meaning that a 3D conversion of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I would have likely been the only choice for the majority of moviegoers. The fact that Alan Horn and company is basically saying 'we don't have the time to do it right, so we're not doing it at all' is the kind of 'whatever works for the movie' play that makes Warner Bros. my favorite major studio. That extra 3D ticket-price bump would have guaranteed the seventh film opening with the biggest three-day total of the series, if not a place amongst the top opening weekends of all time (a list that series-opener Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone topped with $91 million for six months from November 2001 to May 2002). The current record holder is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with $102 million on the same weekend in 2005. For the studio, any studio, to say 'no thank you, we're worried it will hurt the film' is an uncommon show of common sense decency in this day and age.

It's also a promising sign that Warner Bros. believes that the seventh Harry Potter (which was just rated PG-13 for 'some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images') is darn-well good enough not to need a 3D presentation to ensure massive box office, although a $290-310 million domestic take would have been assured regardless. This will be the first Harry Potter film since Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to go out without any kind of 3D gimmickry, as the climax of Order of the Pheonix and the prologue of Half-Blood Prince were converted to 3D for IMAX showings (well before Avatar made it cool). This is also pretty good news for Dreamworks' animated super-villain saga Megamind, which will now keep all of its 3D screens for an extra week until the double-whammy of The Nutcracker 3D (a likely smaller release from Freestyle) and Walt Disney's Tangled on November 24th. As of this time, Warner still plans to release the eighth and final Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II, in 3D and IMAX 3D on July 15th 2011.
Scott Mendelson