There’s always risk when you launch something new. There’s the oft-cited statistic that X number of all new restaurants that open are closed within a year and similar figures can likely be found for any category of business or other venture. While you can say the same about movies – that this or that percentage are going to bomb each month/year – there are even bigger risks involved when you’re discussing the launch of a potential franchise. Especially one that’s already proved to be popular in another medium.
Such was the case 10 years ago when Warner Bros. launched the first Harry Potter movie based on the first entry in the popular book series. If it had bombed – and we can look to adaptations of books like The Golden Compass and others – then it would have been more than just the failure of one movie; It would have meant the studio didn’t have the weight to make movies based on any of the subsequent books and a major franchise would have been, for all intents and purposes, stillborn. It would have been years before it could have tried again with a different approach.
But it didn’t bomb and in fact went on over the next decade to be one of the studio’s most successful franchises.
Now, though, we’ve come to the end of the line. While each of the first six books from author J.K. Rowling has been the subject of a single movie the last novel was split into two films, a decision likely made for equal parts artistic (it’s a big story and too much would be cut in a single two-hour feature) and monetary (two tickets is twice as much as just one), and now we’ve come to the release of the second part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The quests and missions begun in the first part of the story are now nearing their completion as Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and all their friends and family come ever closer to the final confrontation with the evil Lord Voldemort and his armies of darkness. That will culminate in final battles both grand as masses of wizards battle for each side and personal as Harry confronts once and for all the monster who killed his parents and wants him dead now as well.
The first poster for this half of the larger movie showed the main point of the movie, which is the final duel between Harry and Voldemort. So the two of them are shown in the extreme close-up staring each other down, both clutching a single wand between them and both of their faces marred and dirty from the fighting that’s already taken place. The copy at the bottom promises that “It all ends 7.15.”
The next teaser used a similar approach as that of the first movie, showing a close-up of Harry looking just slightly off-camera, his face dirty and bloody as sparks and such flew around in back of him. Similar posters were created for Hermione, Ron, Neville, Snape, Draco Malfoy, Bellatrix and Voldemort.
An even bigger batch followed that of action shots of the above characters with the addition of McGongagall, Griphook and Fred and George Weasley.
A huge banner was released that showed the Gringotts-guarding dragon that the characters encounter and which plays a rather large role in the story. While this is interesting it’s also slightly odd that such a specific plot element would be portrayed in the marketing like this when everything else is more focused on the characters and the final, bloody confrontation.
Another banner would get more on-point, with the good guys on one side and the bad guys on the other and streams of magic meeting in the middle and creating a huge flare.
The assembling of armies on both sides would be a theme that continued in the next set of two posters that were released, with one showing Harry at the front of his group of classmates, teachers and friends and another with Voldemort running point on his band of miscreants and minions. Both of these continued the “It all ends” copy theme and be similarly grimy and blood-soaked, as if we’re seeing but a pause in the middle of a larger battle.
Yet another series of one-sheets showed Harry, Ron, Hermione and Voldemort standing more or less still but still with the fire and dirt swirling around them.
The first trailer for this installment starts out mysteriously, with all sorts of odd images being shown before Voldemort starts taking the scene and things get serious. Explosions at Hogwarts, people being thrown around by magic and more. There are shots of armies marching and snakes crawling and people looking very, very emotional over what’s going on. The last 45 seconds or so kicks it into overdrive, with one battle sequence after another being shown as people run and scream. With all this going on the focus does occasionally come back to the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort before prompting the audience to go finish the sage in 3D.
The second and final trailer, which came just a few weeks before release and followed a ton of TV advertising, is the most violent and epic of them all for either half of this final installment. It starts out by retracing Harry’s life and pointing out that everything he’s done has been in preparation for this final moment, which he must now face with his friends and teachers. There’s not much story laid out here but there doesn’t need to be. This campaign, and this trailer in particular, is all about selling the massive scale of the final battle between the light and the dark and the relationships that go into each side, even if it all does ultimately come down to Harry and Voldemort facing off against each other with wands at the ready.
The official website opens with the final theatrical trailer, which you can skip if the player makes your entire computer freeze up and crash.
In “About the Movie,” the first content section in the main navigation menu, you’ll find the usual assortment of information like the Synopsis, Cast and Filmmaker biographies and downloadable Production Notes.
“Video” has just the Teaser and Theatrical trailers, a small selection that’s surprising considering the number of TV spots, featurettes and retrospectives that were produced for this final film installment. There are 14 stills in the “Photos” sections and “Downloads” has Wallpapers, Buddy Icons, Posters and a Screensaver.
You can listen to portions of the score in the “Soundtracks” section and find a list of sites doing giveaways in “Sweepstakes.”
Things start to get a little more interactive with the “Parseltongue Translator,” where you can enter a message to hear spoken in snake-speak. The “Muggle Hub” is just a sub-site that has many of the same features and media as the main site. “The Quest” is a game where you can answer questions and win points to redeem for prizes and recognition among your peers.
“Shop” and “The Videogame” are just interested in selling you things while “Spells App” takes you to information on the iPhone app you can use to trade spells with other users and “Part One” takes you to information on the first part of the final movie.
Lots of stuff from the official website is ported over to the Facebook page, which also then adds more media (including a full collection of TV commercials and other video that was missing from the main page) to the mix along with the usual stream of updates about the movie, the cast and general fan exclamations about how excited they are.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV commercials began running in mid-May that, like the first trailers, made it clear this is the final confrontation between the two rivals. It’s the same voiceover of Voldemort taunting Harry over the death of his friends while he has remained safe but it’s pretty good, even in 30 second form. Some started off much more gently than others, with the drama slowly building and others took viewers right into the action but almost all of them ended with the promise of a huge battle involving all the characters we’ve seen to date but which ends with Harry and Voldemort going toe-to-toe.
A huge in-theater standee was created that mimicked one of the banners mentioned above, with the forces on each side of the battle shown as the two primary characters faced off in the forefront.
Media and Publicity
One of the first shots from the publicity effort for the movie was the announcement that a sneak peak from the film would air during an ABC Family marathon of the earlier entries in the franchise.
The movie also got some promotion at 2011 WonderCon (Hollywood Reporter, 3/31/11) where several minutes of footage was screened for the crowd of both exhibition executives and trade press.
There was also the continued travels of “Harry Potter: The Exhibition,” an exhibit that’s been touring museums across the country for a couple years (New York Times, 4/5/11) now showing off some props from the movies and other wizarding memorabilia.
The film was one of many to get some promotional time at the 2011 MTV Movie Awards, where Watson appeared and debuted a new clip (Los Angeles Times, 6/6/11) but where it failed to pick up any awards.
There was a lot of retrospective press going around, a trend that was epitomized by a story in Entertainment Weekly (6/30/11) that looked back at the histories of each of the actors, the production designers and some of the other talent involved in the film as they reminisced on their involvement with the franchise and how things have evolved over the 10 years since the first movie hit theaters.
I’m trying to figure out if there’s any one consistent theme that the campaign was hung on…I’m just not sure if there’s one phrase that was used over and over again on all the posters and in all the trailers to let the audience know that this was a big event or the end of the film series.
Oh wait…that’s almost all the campaign was; a constant repetition of the fact that this is where “It all ends.”
Aside from that this is a decent campaign that stands in stark contrast to the marketing for the previous movies, which contained bits of story that moved us toward the conclusion but which were also more adventurous and whimsical in nature. As with any finale the marketing here has to be bittersweet in part because this is the audience – and the studio – saying goodbye to these characters and this world for the foreseeable future.