Update: Very wisely, Universal have swiftly reacted to Paramount's move and moved Seth MacFarlane's R-rated comedy "Ted" onto the June 29th date left by the "G.I. Joe" move. This gives it an extra two weeks before expected juggernaut "The Dark Knight Rises" hits theaters, and is likely a good thing for the film.
Well, this is something of a shocker. In slightly over a month, Paramount were set to open their great hope for the summer, "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," the sequel to the 2009 adaptation of the toy/cartoon series. The first film wasn't a huge hit (in fact, it probably lost money), but the studio were confident that a cheaper budget, a fresh-faced helmer in "Step Up 3-D" director Jon Chu, and two big action stars in Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis, would lift the film above the competition and relaunch the franchise. That, plus "Star Trek 2" got delayed, and they had to open something in the summer.
The emphasis on all that should have been "were confident," because according to BoxOfficeMojo, five weeks before release, Paramount have delayed the film for nine months, to March 29th, 2013, in order, supposedly, to convert the film into 3D to boost the foreign box office. An unnamed source tells Deadline, "We’re going to do a conscientious 3D job because we’ve seen how it can better box office internationally,” And they're not wrong: from everything to "John Carter" to "The Avengers," 3D has been boosting box-office numbers, especially in markets like China and Russia. And they are at least taking their time, rather than rushing the job.
That being said, nine months is a very, very long time to pull off a 3D conversion, and we suspect there's more to the story, given how almost unprecedentedly late the decision was — plans were already in motion for a junket in Dallas a few weeks from now. Did the studio look at how "The Avengers" has squeezed out everything else at the box office, and start to worry that with "Brave," "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" and "The Amazing Spider-Man" coming along in the weeks surrounding it, that there would be a fierce fight for screens? Could it have been they thought that March, where "The Hunger Games" proved to be such a bumper success, would be more hospitable? Was the film maybe not just ready, or not working?
And then, of course, there's the first film's star Channing Tatum, who returns for the new one, but is, judging by the trailers, killed off before the end of the first act. Between shooting this film and now, Tatum's become something of a megastar thanks to "The Vow" and "21 Jump Street" — might the studio want to try and tempt him back to resurrect Duke in a reshoot? The real reason for the delay is likely to never become publicly clear (although what is clear: Paramount don't have a major blockbuster this summer, which has to hurt, especially after their only other release, "The Dictator," tanked), but this is a pretty bold move by the studio, and one that could backfire: they've succeeded in changing the public perception of their film from a hopeful guilty pleasure to 'troubled' in one swift move. And March isn't that much clearer: "Elysium," "Oz The Great And Powerful," "Now You See Me" and "Jack The Giant Killer" (itself delayed from this summer) are all chasing the same demographic, and will all be in theaters around the same time. We'll see one way or the other when "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" belatedly arrives in theaters on March 29th, 2013.