Studio to mount a best-picture campaign

Whether “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is worthy of best picture consideration will be the topic of spirited debate for the next seven months. But Warner Bros. has already made up its mind.

Studio is pulling out the stops to mount a best-picture campaign for the last installment of the “Harry Potter” franchise, taking a page from the “Lord of the Rings” playbook that New Line successfully employed to land the 2003 best picture Oscar for the trilogy’s final installment, “The Return of the King,” along with 10 other Oscars.

Warners will “absolutely, hands-down, across-the-board” push the last installment of “Harry Potter” hoping Academy members will consider a vote for “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” as a wider nod to the entire franchise, a notion that very much helped propel “Return of the King” to Oscar glory.

While the Acad often shuns fantasy and kid fare, Warners believes it has a real shot at a nom given the pic’s emotional weight, capping a franchise that’s delivered more than $7 billion in worldwide B.O. and traced its stars from childhood to young adulthood. The best pic category has been tweaked this time around so that as few as five and as many as 10 titles will be nominated for the 84th edition.

“Potter” could also rack up noms in visual effects and other technical categories. Potter pics have received a total of nine Oscar noms but no wins yet; “Hallows: Part 1” received noms for art direction and visual effects.

Warner Bros. is also planning campaigns for “Contagion,” set for a Sept. 9 release; “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” which is set for December; “J. Edgar,” the Clint Eastwood-helmed biopic starring Leonardo DiCaprio; and “Happy Feet Two,” opening Nov. 18.

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