Is the magic still there?

Not to sound like a Muggle, but in a time of Transformers and Twilight, does Harry Potter still matter?

Daniel Radcliffe

Not to sound like a Muggle, but in a time of Transformers and Twilight, does Harry Potter still matter?

Is Daniel Radcliffe destined to play second fiddle to Shia LaBeouf or Robert Pattinson as box-office prince? Will it take Amortentia (the most powerful love potion in the world) to make us wild about Harry again?

The answer will come Wednesday when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince opens, but the movie landscape has undergone seismic shifts since the film franchise started in 2001 and skipped through the decade earning nearly $4.5 billion worldwide.

The entertainment world has morphed just since August, when Warner Bros. announced it was bumping the sixth Potter movie from November 2008 to July 2009 and incited angry online petitioners.

A year ago, this was a lucky week for the studio when The Dark Knight started its ascent to No. 2 on the list of all-time box-office hits (behind Titanic).

Now, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has Voldemort tightening his grip on the Muggle and wizarding worlds, as danger and hormones rage.

After box-office expert Paul Dergarabedian saw the latest Potter at an industry preview, he blogged that he was “blown away like a Quidditch player on a supercharged broomstick. …

“I just thought the movie was terrific, I really enjoyed it. It made sense to me, I got involved, I liked the fact that they’re older and definitely more assured in their acting and even the characters are more interesting,” says Dergarabedian of hollywood.com.

“It wasn’t like a big mechanical beast,” he says, not naming names. “It reminded me of an old Hollywood spectacle. … It looked very expensive and very rich.”

It’s a coming-of-age story with humor, heart, budding romances and threads about loyalty and betrayal. A cherished character dies, making for a movie scene that readers such as 15-year-old Sam Booth of Mount Lebanon, Pa., anticipate with curiosity and dread.

She will be away at camp when the movie debuts and says, “I am not happy about it.” So, she will make a beeline for the expected blockbuster when she returns.

But not everyone is aboard the Hogwarts Express, however.

Marketing expert Jack Trout from Trout & Partners in Old Greenwich, Conn., says, “I view Potter, in some respects, as sort of a fading franchise. In other words, I think there’s been so much of it for so long and essentially new things have arrived … and I think a lot of the Potter crowd has moved on to vampires.”

The bloodsuckers are everywhere, from the Twilight and Vampire Kisses books to the decidedly adult True Blood, the Anna Paquin vampire series on HBO. And the marketing expert suggests there’s a point where Potter fatigue — same bad guys, same good guys — can set in.

But Trout concedes, “The fact that they’ve kept it for so long is mind-boggling. Few franchises in show business really last that long,” unless you’re talking about an entertainment phenomenon such as Michael Jackson.

“They’ll do fine” at the box office he says of Half-Blood Prince, but adds, “Even Potter grew up, and their marketplace has certainly grown up.”

The law of diminishing returns usually applies to franchises, but some either hold their own or win Oscars, as with the final Lord of the Rings.

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