A squad of big films that were held from 2012
05:00 AM, Jan 09, 2013
It used to be when a studio announced it was delaying the release of a film for several months, it was treated as a sign of a troubled production.
With the rush-to-judgment tendencies of the Internet age, the entertainment media continue to initially judge such decisions as surefire red flags.
But in these days of budget-busting blockbusters loaded with sophisticated effects and 3-D technology, such scheduling shifts don’t seem to raise eyebrows quite as high anymore. That may be one reason why no fewer than five major-studio releases were pushed from 2012 dates into this year with a minimum of concern.
“Big moves on big movies used to mean big disasters,” says Hollywood.com box-office tracker Paul Dergarabedian. “That’s just not the case anymore. This is a notable year with so many high-profile releases that were moved.”
Rob Moore, Paramount’s marketing chief, confirms that observation. “The process is more complicated nowadays. To get all the parts right to make the best movie, you might have to revise plans from when you started.”
In 1997, his studio’s Titanic created enormous waves of concern when it was moved from a summer berth to December. Of course, James Cameron’s supposed sinking ship of a historical epic, with its bloated price tag and overly ambitious effects, would sail on to Oscar glory while breaking box-office records with $600-million-plus domestically.
Moore also points to a more recent Paramount example: 2010’sShutter Island. Martin Scorsese’s psychological thriller set off alarms at first after moving from Oscar-friendly October 2009 to February the following year.
“The original date created a lot of pressure and expectations, when it really was a commercial thriller,” he says. By switching to a period outside of the awards season, Shutter Island gave Scorsese his biggest opening weekend ever ($41 million) and his best worldwide box-office gross (nearly $300 million).
Such results suggest it might be smarter to worry less about bad buzz and more about providing optimal conditions for a release, whether it means a rewrite, extra time to tweak digital imagery or simply finding a more suitable first weekend. “It usually pays for studios to be more cautious with tens of millions of dollars on the line,” Dergarabedian says.
Besides Gangster Squad whose opening was switched from September to this Friday after the Aurora, Colo., theater shootings here are four other holdovers that just might prove to be worth the wait.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
The move: From June 29, 2012, to March 29, 2013
The back story: The sequel to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, a surprise 2009 hit based on the popular line of military action figures, had more reason than most films to ditch its original date. For one, it would have opened against G.I. Joe star Channing Tatum’s male-stripper odyssey, Magic Mike. For another, it became clear that Tatum, whose character was supposed to quickly die off with other returnees to allow the newcomers in the cast take over, had grown too popular to have so little screen time.
But Paramount’s Moore says the main factor behind the delay was to allow time to convert the action-adventure to 3-D. “So many people at screenings said, ‘Why isn’t it in 3-D?’ It became preposterous.” The schedule change was costly, since a pricey trailer already had made its debut during last year’s Super Bowl.
But Moore has a different marketing strategy this time: A four-minute scene in 3-D that went over well when it was unveiled in Asia (to take advantage of popular South Korean actor Lee Byung-hun) will premiere in theaters showing Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters on Jan. 25.
The Great Gatsby
The move: From Dec. 25, 2012, to May 10, 2013
The back story: Few were truly shocked when it was announced in August that director Baz Luhrmann’s extravagant 3-D production (based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American novel), which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, would move from Christmas to the following spring.
The exact same change was made with 2001’s Moulin Rouge, Luhrmann’s equally elaborate musical pastiche that went on to earn eight Oscar nominations, including best picture.
Warner Bros. stands by explanations given when the December release date was changed. “Based on what we’ve seen, Baz Luhrmann’s incredible work is all we anticipated and so much more,” said domestic distribution chief Dan Fellman. “We think moviegoers of all ages are going to embrace it, and it makes sense to ensure this unique film reaches the largest audience possible.”
World War Z
The move: From Dec. 21, 2012, to June 21, 2013
The back story: When word got out in June that Paramount’s zombie epic, starring Brad Pitt and directed by Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland), was to be moved to a summer slot, much speculation was made about the state of the script. Fueling rumors was the news that two creative forces behind TV’s Lost first, Damon Lindelof, then replacement Drew Goddard were hired to rewrite the third act and that reshoots were scheduled.
Moore’s full explanation: “This movie is intended to be a trilogy. And an important element of a trilogy is for the audience to have an emotional reaction to the film. At the end, they want to experience the characters again. But the end was too downbeat. We found some talented people to craft a more satisfying conclusion.”
The upside is that response to the first trailer, which premiered in November, has been overwhelmingly positive. The exposure, Moore says, led to World War Z topping the list of Fandango’s most-anticipated apocalyptic films of 2013.
The move: From Nov. 21, 2012, to 2013
The back story: Warner Bros. has been less than revealing about its reasons for delaying this 3-D outer-space drama, which stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts left stranded after debris hits their shuttle. It’s the latest effort by director Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).
In an e-mail, the studio said: “Gravity is heavily visual-effects driven, and a date in 2013 allowed the proper visual effects schedule to be in place.”
Reports from those at a rough-cut screening in May found the film visually stunning and Bullock, who spends much of the time alone on-screen, impressive. But most also described it as being meditative. Clooney, while promoting The Descendants last year, told USA TODAY as much: “It’s a two-hander with only two actors in the whole film. It is a very odd film, really. Two people in space. No monsters. It’s more like 2001 than an action film.”