WILL PRINCE TRUMP KNIGHT?

Box office analysts are predicting that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will earn $140 million or more between Wednesday and Sunday, with $100 million being tallied over the Friday-to-Sunday weekend, the Hollywood Reporter said today (Wednesday). In fact, the trade publication observed, the film has a realistic shot of outdoing last year's The Dark Knight, which was also released by Warner Bros. (It noted that advance ticket sales for the movie have already outpaced those for Knight.) The Potter sequel also faces little competition, with no other film opening wide this weekend. "And the most prominent second-weekend holdover -- Universal's R-rated comedy Brüno -- couldn't have a more distinct target audience from that of Prince," THR observed. UPDATE: Wednesday's preview screenings of Half-Blood Prince, beginning at midnight, raked in a record $22.2 million, smashing the record set last year by The Dark Knight, with $18.5 million, Warner Bros. said today.

STUDY: RELEASE DELAYS HURT STOCK PRICES

If you think fans of the Harry Potter movies were disappointed when Warner Bros. decided to delay the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by eight months, consider the delay's effect on Time Warner's stock. Although it does not mention the movie specifically, a new study released by the Journal of Cultural Economics and reported in today's (Wednesday) New York Times makes two conclusions: First, that the stock market's response to such delays "is, on average, negative, suggesting that changes in plans are interpreted by the market as bad news." And second, that the box-office performance of the delayed movie is "unrelated to the market reaction, indicating a limited ability of the market to predict future success of movies."

DVD, BLU-RAY RENTALS SURGE

After a significant downturn last year, rentals of movies and TV shows on DVD and Blu-ray have rebounded, with total rental rising 8.3 percent to $3.4 billion during the first half of the year, according to Rentrak Corp. The upsurge, said the Portland, OR-based media research company, is being driven primarily by rental kiosks like Redbox, which have grown by more than 150 percent in the first half versus the comparable period a year ago. Revenue from traditional DVDs at brick-and-mortar and online stores was down 2.4 percent but was offset by a 62.4 percent increase in Blu-ray rentals, the report said. A summary of the Rentrak research was published Tuesday on the Video Business website.

SODERBERGH: "I CAN SEE THE END OF MY CAREER"

Following the failure of Che, his biopic of Cuban rebel leader Ernesto Che Guevara, starring Benicio Del Toro, and the recent last-minute decision by Sony to abort the production of his Moneyball, which was to have starred Brad Pitt, Steven Soderbergh has told Britain's Guardian newspaper, "I can see the end of my career." In an interview with the newspaper, Soderbergh, whose films include Traffic, Eric Brockovich, and Ocean's Eleven, admitted that he regretted making the four-hour Che, which reportedly cost $58 million to produce and earned about half that amount worldwide. "For a year after we finished shooting I would still wake up in the morning thinking, 'Thank God I'm not shooting that film,'" he said. Soderbergh noted that, given the current economic "landscape," such a film could not have found even the limited financing that it did. "A few more years maybe ... and then the stuff that I'm interested in is only going to be of interest to me. ... And so I've got a list of stuff that I want to do -- that I hope I can do -- and once that's all finished I may just disappear."

CONTROVERSIAL DARWIN BIOPIC TO OPEN TORONTO FESTIVAL

Creation, a film virtually certain to provoke massive controversy when it is released, has been selected to open the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 10. The Jon Amiel film about the life of Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution continues to be challenged by religious conservatives, stars Jeremy Thomas in the role of Darwin. (2009 marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth.) "The tension between faith and reason is prominent in contemporary culture, and this intimate look at Darwin puts a human face on a man whose theory remains controversial to this day," festival director Piers Handling said in a statement. The festival will also feature another biopic, Jan Campion's Bright Star, about the life of 19th-century poet John Keats that was well received at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

UKRAINE LIKELY TO BAN BRNO

There has been no word from Kazakhstan, the homeland of Borat, but another former Soviet country, Ukraine, is expected to ban the release of Brüno, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported today (Wednesday). The film had been scheduled to open there next week. One Ukrainian diplomat told the newspaper that the country "is very conservative on family issues. They are devoted Catholics and Greek Catholics." (Ukraine also banned Borat.) On the other hand, the Guardian quoted other sources as saying that the controversy over Brüno may have been "dreamed up by distributors Sinergia to boost the film ahead of its release."