Work has begun on 'Half-Blood Prince'

Warner Bros. is adding more 3D magic to the “Harry Potter” franchise after all.

Warner’s home entertainment division has engaged Prime Focus to convert two back titles in the series for 3D Blu-ray: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

Work has begun on “Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth pic in the franchise. Prime Focus London is the lead facility on the conversion, with additional work being done by company’s Hollywood and India facilities.

Prime Focus and Warner took a lot of heat after the 3D version of “Clash of the Titans” was rushed; in contrast, work on the conversion of “Half-Blood Prince” is proceeding methodically. Including Warner’s plans to put both parts of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” in 3D, all four “Potter” pics directed by David Yates have been in line for 3D conversion.

Yates is still in post on “Deathly Hallows” and will not turn his attention to the 3D back titles until early 2011. However, the Prime Focus process is flexible enough to permit the director to view shots and ask for adjustments after most work on those shots has been done.

Work was stopped on the stereoscopic conversion of “Deathly Hallows: Part 1″ when it became apparent the 3D version would not be ready in time for the Nov. 19 release date (Daily Variety, Oct. 11). Warner has not, however, ruled out completing the conversion later.

Studio is keeping mum about its 3D plans for the “Potter” backtitles, including street dates for 3D homevideo and whether there will be a theatrical re-release for the series. With the final four “Potter” pics in 3D, however, conversion of the earlier pics seems likely. Just as Yates has had creative oversight of 3D on his pics, conversion of the earlier titles would likely require the involvement of Chris Columbus, Mike Newell and Alfonso Cuaron, who directed the first four in the series.

Warner has twice canceled 3D releases of high-profile pics when the stereoscopic version could not be completed in time: first on “Happy Feet” and now on “Deathly Hallows: Part 1.”

By avoiding any announcement of a release date or street date on “Potter” pics 5 and 6, Warner keeps open its option to spend extra time on the conversion process if necessary — just as Lucasfilm is doing with its “Star Wars” conversions — without undergoing another cancellation or postponement.

“Clash” scored well at the box office, but Prime Focus got criticized. Since then, the company has worked to rebuild its reputation and it got a public compliment from Jeffrey Katzenberg (a vocal critic of conversion) at last month’s 3D Entertainment Summit for the company’s 3D conversion work on a DreamWorks Animation title. It has also made a point of turning down rush jobs.

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