Bad news for all those with Harry Potter withdrawal symptoms (shaking wand arm, nargle infestation, butterbeer overdoses): Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince‘s release date has moved from the relatively close November 21 to the practically-an-age-away July 17 2009 (funny, thats the date a certain Dark Knight came out for Warner’s this year and is raking in the cash!). We’ll pause for a moment here for you to compose yourselves.

Feeling better? OK, now let us assure you, as we were in turn assured, that this is not the result of the film running into difficulties. Post-production is on schedule – in fact, the studio press release says it “was completed on time” (our itals) which suggests that it’s locked and loaded and ready to go, just sitting in the Warners vault with cash occasionally crystalising out of thin air nearby from the sheer weight of its cosmic money-making potential.

The delay is due instead to the fact that the writers’ strike left several big gaps in the summer ’09 line-up, and rather than risk people finding something else to do than go to the cinema, the studios are rationing our film releases.

Jeff Robinov, head of Warner Bros Pictures, said that this would not affect the release schedule for The Deathly Hallows, work on which is proceeding in the meantime. “The studio’s release plans for the two-part ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ will not be affected by this change. We know Harry Potter fans are eagerly anticipating seeing the final chapters unfold onscreen. In fact, the good news for them is that the gap will now be shortened between ‘Half-Blood Prince’ and the first part of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.'”

Of course, the bad news is that the gap between Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince comes in at more than two years. No wonder those fans have the nargles.