Harry Potter's Around Every Corner

Harry Potter mania is officially upon us. The film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, brought to us by Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) Warner Bros., opens today, while the final book in the series launches next week. It's pretty safe to assume that this is going to be Harry Potter's most magical year with fans.

The prognosis for the Warner Bros. film seems pretty good so far. I checked out the Metacritic site, which averages critical temperament on movies, and as of this writing, Order of the Phoenix holds a rating of 74, which falls in the "generally favorable reviews" range of Metacritic's system. Although critical acclaim -- or lack thereof -- doesn't always make much of a difference at the box office, the 74 is a much better showing than most of the blockbuster sequels have managed so far this summer. Spider-Man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, and Shrek the Third all clocked in at the 50-60 range, which Metacritic translates to "mixed or average reviews."

The expected mammoth launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows next week helps give Time Warner's movie some additional buzz. The debut sales of Harry Potter books so far would make most movie studios drool -- although the downside is all the discounting that booksellers will be doing on the book to try to one-up the competition.

You've probably also noticed that Electronic Arts' (Nasdaq: ERTS  ) new Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix game is out and being widely advertised to go along with the movie, and it's available for all the major platforms, including Sony's (NYSE: SNE  ) PlayStation, Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Xbox, and of course, the ridiculously popular Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) Wii. (By the way, Metacritic rates games, too, and this one got "mixed or average reviews.") 

Time Warner's still got some happy Harry-related days to come, since the big hits in this series are often quite helpful to the massive media conglomerate's financials. According to Box Office Mojo, the previous film in this series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, took in a worldwide gross of $892.2 million. That's pretty sweet for a movie with a $150 million budget.

There are two more Potter movies yet to come. According to imdb.com, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is in pre-production and due in theaters in 2008, and the final movie is scheduled for 2010 -- not a moment too soon, considering that the films' child stars are growing rapidly older! Time Warner shareholders will also have to hope that Harry Potter's magic will remain potent a couple of years after fans have turned the last page of the series' grand finale.

For now, though, it seems likely that the series' wizardry is casting its strongest spell on fans at this very moment.  

For more Potter-ific Foolishness:

Time Warner, Electronic Arts, and Nintendo are all Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Microsoft has been recommended in Motley Fool Inside Value. Try a free 30-day trial of either newsletter to practice some investing magic of your own.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that passed its O.W.L. examinations.


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