Did ‘Harry Potter’ Release Date Change To Avoid ‘Twilight’ Competition?

By Sabrina Rojas Weiss

Ever since “Eclipse” knocked “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” off the best-seller list last year, there’s been trash-talking between Twilighters and Potter-heads. And this strange rivalry between the two fanbases was only bound to get worse this December, when the release of the “Twilight” movie was going to coincide with “Half-Blood Prince” ’s fourth week in theaters.

(UPDATE: “Twilight” has now moved up its release date to November 21, taking the spot vacated by “Harry Potter”!)

Now that Warner Brothers decided that they need more box-office magic in 2009 than they do this holiday season, both sides of the wizard/vampire debate should breathe easy, right? Wrong. While the Potter fans are sorely disappointed about the delay, some Twilighters seem to be gloating about it — at least according to the comments on yesterday’s MTV News report on the date change.

So did Warner Brothers really move the date fearing that Catherine Hardwicke’s flick would take a bite out of Harry’s B.O. take? Not likely. As vocal and enthusiastic (and MTV-loving) as Twilighters are, “Harry Potter” has much stronger numbers. First-day “Breaking Dawn” sales of 1.3 million were impressive, but “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” sold 8.3 million copies in its first day out.

Warners’ decision to change the movie’s date was “a very curious move,” according to Jeff Bock of industry research firm Exhibitor Relations, especially considering how few family-friendly films will be released this fall. With the lack of competition, and because the “Half-Blood Prince” was one of the most well-received in the series, he thinks it could have done “upwards of $300 million.” Those projections could drop, given that the July release date places Harry in competition with summer blockbusters like “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

“I think there’s something we’re not being told, and maybe that does have to do with the script,” Bock said.

“There’s no way that ’Harry Potter’ was worried about ’Twilight,’ but ’Twilight’ has got to be feeling very good right now,” Bock said, projecting that the vampire movie could do somewhere around $70-100 million. “Maybe it won’t be as big as ’Harry Potter,’ but if a company like Summit Entertainment pulls off $100 million, that’s quite a coup. Things are looking really bright for ’Twilight’ right now.”

But numbers aside, I want to know what’s really behind the harsh exchange of words going on between these two groups. I mean really, if Robert Pattinson can manage to embrace both worlds, can’t we all just get along?