Studio mixing sequels with newcomers like 'Holmes'

Warner Bros. — the studio that births the most tentpoles — hopes that the end of the Harry Potter franchise in 2011 won’t mean the end of the tentpole production line.

More than any other studio, Warners’ focus is on delivering blockbusters like “The Dark Knight” and the Harry Potters. Of the 16 highest worldwide grossers, five have come from WB along with New Line’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Tentpoles, the thinking goes, can justify megabudgets for top talent, lavish action sequences and special effects since they’ll rake in dough for other divisions (TV, homevid, merchandise and vidgames). And in the case of new properties like “The Green Lantern” and “Sherlock Holmes,” it can also establish an evergreen franchise.

Studio topper Alan Horn and production prexy Jeff Robinov have said they’d like to have at least four of those blockbusters a year.

The combination of integrating New Line, the shuttering of Warner Independent and Picturehouse and the impact of the WGA strike made it tricky to keep that kind of production level going in 2008. As a result, the studio may be a little light on tentpoles next year and in 2011.

Top of the wish list for Horn and Robinov: For Chris Nolan to figure out a third Batman movie, but nothing’s been set yet. Here’s what’s definite:

  • “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” directed by David Yates and starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. Opening July 15 after being postponed from November.

  • “Sherlock Holmes,” directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Opens Dec. 25 in what the studio hopes will be a franchise launcher.

  • “Clash of the Titans,” directed by Louis Leterriere and starring Sam Worthington. Opens March 26 in an attempt to replicate the success of “300.”

  • “Sex and the City 2,” directed by Michael Patrick King and starring Sarah Jessica Parker. Opens May 28, two years after the first film grossed over $415 million worldwide.

  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1,” directed by Yates and starring Radcliffe, Watson and Grint. Opening Nov. 19, 2010, in the slot that most of the Potter films have filled.

  • “The Green Lantern,” directed by Martin Campbell. Opening June 17, 2011. Ryan Reynolds will star in one of the potential crown jewels among the DC Comics library.

  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,” directed by Yates and starring Radcliffe, Watson and Grint. Opening July 15, 2011. The eight films will probably win up grossing somewhere around $7 billion in worldwide box office.

  • “Happy Feet 2,” directed by George Miller. Opening Nov. 18, 2011. The 2006 original “Happy Feet” topped $380 million.

  • “The Hobbit, Part 1,” directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Opening December 2011. New Line and MGM are financing. No casting yet.

  • “The Hobbit, Part 2,” directed by Del Toro. Opening December 2012. As with “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the films will be shot in New Zealand.

The most likely potential tentpoles are “Jonny Quest,” which still has no director or cast, and New Line’s vidgame adapation “Gears of War,” with Len Wiseman attached.

As for another Superman, Horn’s indicated that the Man of Steel will not be returning any time soon.

Testifying in a recent court trial over the validity of licensing deals, the studio topper said he hopes to make another “Superman” movie but added that the property wasn’t under development, no script had been written and the earliest another “Superman” pic could be released would be in 2012.

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