This Friday sees the release of “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters “starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as the fairy tale brother/sister duo. The film shot in March 2011 (before Renner filmed either “The Avengers” or “The Bourne Legacy“), and was originally set to be released in March 2012, before Paramount pushed it back ten months to its current slot in the January wastelands. But ‘Hansel & Gretel’ is hardly the only case of a long-delayed film making it to theaters in 2013. For instance, “Gangster Squad” was pushed back from September 2012 to January 11th after the Aurora shootings, though it would have been a horrible film whatever time of year it was released. And the two are set to be followed by a fairly staggering twenty-five films from major studios that have already been pushed back somewhere between five and thirteen months, many of them accompanied by serious production troubles and well-publicized reshoots.
It’s not a new phenomenon, but it’s always been relatively sparse in the past — for instance, the only major release of 2012 (excluding those hampered by MGM‘s financial problems) to have suffered a similar release date delay was “Battleship.” Any kind of significant release delay tends to ring warning bells, but should that be the case? “Gangster Squad,” among others, has certainly proven that we should be cautious, but it’s more complex than, simply, “the movie stinks.” After all, the two most successful films of all time, “Titanic” and “Avatar,” were both originally set for summer releases before James Cameron‘s perfectionism saw them delayed until December. Each went on to break records. Might they have done the same if they’d been released six months earlier? It’s impossible to tell, but the delay, and the considerable publicity that went with it, certainly didn’t hurt them. And getting the right release date can make all the difference.
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Perhaps the major reason that there’s been so much of this of late is that there’s simply too much product. There was a time that big movies were only released between May and July, or in the holidays. But the success of “Alice In Wonderland” in March, among others, has opened the floodgates, and seen big movies spread throughout the year (see Tom Cruise‘s upcoming “Oblivion” opening in the usually quiet April, for instance). But even so, there’s only so many viable release dates, and with newcomers like Relativity Media and CBS Films getting in the game, it seems like there’s less and less room on the calendar.
But obviously, the reasons films are delayed vary from film to film, so below, we’ve rounded up the biggest of the studio pictures that were pushed back, and dug into why they’ve been left in limbo for so long. Read on below, and let us know which ones you’re looking forward to — or not — in the comments section.
The most delayed of all the films here, “47 Ronin” was originally planned for release on Thanksgiving 2012. It was shifted back at first to February 2013, then all the way to Christmas Day 2013, a thirteen-month gap. As has been well-publicized, it’s down to what seems to be a tumultous production that saw clashes between debut director Carl Erik Rinsch (a commercials veteran who was once set to direct the film that became “Prometheus“), and studio Universal. Reports were that Rinsch had gone wildly over-budget, and made an artier film than was hoped, with less action and romance than the studio wanted. Rumors that Rinsch had been removed from the project seem to have been exaggerated (though you never know), but extensive reshoots and retooling led to the film’s delay. That said, that it’s ended up as a Christmas Day release suggests that Universal still has a measure of confidence in the film becoming a big hitter.
Much more under-the-radar than most of the films on this list, despite the presence of “Bourne” director Paul Greengrass and star Tom Hanks, few even noticed when this based-in-fact drama about the capture of the ship The Maersk Alabama by Somalian pirates was pushed back seven months, from March 2013 to October 2013. But there’s likely a good reason for this: we’ve heard terrific buzz on the film (Greengrass is said to consider it one of his best), and so Sony are likely trying to position it for maximum awards play. Indeed, the October 11th date follows almost exactly a year after another hostage drama, “Argo,” so that’s clearly the template here.
Like “Captain Phillips,” Sony pushed their “Carrie” remake, directed by Kimberley Peirce and starring Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore, from March to October a few weeks ago. March has been looking very crowded, and the original March 15th date was a week behind “Oz The Great & Powerful,” and two weeks ahead of “The Host.” Of late, the “Paranormal Activity” series has scared other horror films away from a Halloween date, but with last year’s installment showing diminishing returns with a $53 million take (half of what the original made), MGM presumably feels that they might be able to take on the reigning champion and win. Morever, it will give them some distance from the other big horror remake of the spring: “Evil Dead.”
One of the more interesting question marks here, Neill Blomkamp‘s follow-up to his breakout “District 9,” starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, wowed the crowds at Comic-Con, and was set to kick off the spring blockbuster season on March 1st. Instead, it got pushed back to August, on the same equivalent date that the studio lost a bomb with last year, with “Total Recall.” It could be that the studio wanted an opening closer to when “District 9” came out back in 2009, rather than the more unknown quantity of a competitive March. Maybe the move came out of “Robocop,” which originally had the slot, getting pushed back to February 2014, and Sony wanting to maintain a presence in the summer, as well as it giving them more time to work on marketing for a film that won’t be an easy sell, including a second Comic-Con appearance. Or maybe there’s a more problematic reason (Damon’s head was shaven for reshoots at the tail end of last year, and we weren’t big fans of the draft of the script that we read, so there could be room for improvement). Either way, we’ll find out soon.
“G.I. Joe: Retaliation”
In their defense, most of these release date changes were made with a good six months notice at least, sometimes more, sometimes a little less. Which makes “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” more notable than most. It was barely five weeks from release, with junkets planned and toys on the shelf, when Paramount delayed it for nine months, from its original June 29th date. It was partly a reaction to the failure of “Battleship,” partly to convert it into 3D, partly an awareness that the film only had a few weeks’ head start on things like “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Ted” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” and partly a way to ensure Channing Tatum, killed off in the original incarnation of the film, could be included in a more comprehensive manner (although the film’s producer denied that recently). Whatever the reason, it’s been a disastrous bit of mismanagement; the film may yet turn out to be a pleasant surprise, but the studio tainted it by making the decision so last-minute, and by suggesting that they were doing so in order to convert it into 3D, which stunk of knowing that they had a sub-standard product, and that they needed to wring whatever 3D-subsidized extra cash they could out of it.
His first film since 2006’s modern classic “Children Of Men,” film fans have been eagerly anticipating Alfonso Cuaron‘s space-thriller “Gravity,” with reports of 20-minute takes, a Kubrick-esque vibe and positive test-screening responses all only fuelling the fire. But back in May, the film was moved off its November 21st 2012 release date to an unknown point in the future, only recently landing an October 4th date. For some, that might have rung warning bells, especially given that the move was made after those test-screenings. But there’s been no news on reshoots for the movie, so we’re assuming that any changes aren’t major ones. It seems to us that Warners realized, after showing it to audiences, that what they had on their hands was less a four-quadrant blockbuster, and more a potential critical favorite that could use a festival debut and a release date similar to their successful “Argo” as a boost to potential awards glory. But then again, they tried that strategy with the equally hard sell, sci-fi “Cloud Atlas” only to watch it tank.
“The Great Gatsby”
Expected by many to be a big Oscar player, Baz Luhrmann‘s already divisive adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s classic was delayed to this summer by Warner Bros back in August of 2012. And while it hasn’t been tainted to the degree of some of these other films, it was reported that Luhrmann was trying to raise extra money for reshoots, which seemed to take place in October. The director has something of a reputation as a tinkerer (he essentially shot “Australia” twice, one of the reasons it proved so expensive), but it’s not that likely that this was the reason for the delay; if Warners weren’t willing to pay for the reshoots, they probably wouldn’t have moved the film back in order to accommodate them. Instead, it was probably a smart move to get out of the packed Christmas season that included another Leonardo DiCaprio movie opening head to head. Furthermore, with the Oscar season so competitive last year, moving to 2013 probably gives the film a better chance to stand out (some took the move to mean that the film wasn’t awards material, but “Moulin Rouge!” had a similar shift, and still ended up with a bunch of nominations, including Best Picture).
“Jack The Giant Slayer”
Bryan Singer‘s return to the tentpole world always seemed like something of an afterthought for Warner Bros, and its delay until this March wasn’t a huge surprise when it came; the film faced tough competition, with “Madagscar 3” and “Brave” competing for the kid audience, and “Snow White & The Huntsman” arriving two weeks earlier with another rebooted fairy tale. Moving to the March 1st slot might still give it formidable competition from “Oz The Great & Powerful” a week later, but it at least lets it be the first in the marketplace, and as the first young-skewing fantasy blockbuster since “The Hobbit,” a chance at a decent opening weekend. It may not pay off, but it was probably the right move.
“The Lone Ranger”
Another film with well-documented production difficulties (shut down to be retooled to be cheaper, only to go over budget once it got before cameras), Disney‘s reteam of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” director Gore Verbinski and star Johnny Depp, was originally set to land at Christmas. Whether the troubled shoot had anything to do with the move is somewhat moot; the blockbuster faced direct genre competition (albeit of an R-rated flavor) in “Django Unchained,” as well as seeing “The Hobbit” and “Les Miserables” chasing similar demographics. The summer is a more comfortable slot for Disney for this kind of thing, and when the July 4th weekend opened up when “Robopocalypse” was delayed, it was the natural move to put “The Lone Ranger” in. It’s important to recognize that budget overages in themselves don’t make a film a questionable prospect — no one ever went to see a movie because it came in on schedule/on budget.
“Man Of Steel”
You’re allowed a bit of a pass on delaying a movie if you do it before shooting has even begun, and as with Paramount & “Star Trek,” Warner Bros were planning long-term when they pushed “Man Of Steel” from Christmas 2012 to June 2013 way back in the middle of 2011. With the stiff competition already planned for that Christmas (which then included “Life Of Pi” and “The Lone Ranger” as well), Warners were smart to give Zack Snyder‘s film a longer lead time, especially given that major superhero movies have rarely performed well outside summer (see: “The Green Hornet,” “Daredevil“). The competition aren’t running scared in the way that they were with the Batman movies (“After Earth” hits the week before, “World War Z” and “Monsters University” the one after), but maybe they should be, given the way that “The Avengers” crushed all comers last summer.
“Now You See Me”
Opening the week before “Man Of Steel,” Louis Letterier‘s magic-themed heist actioner had been in search of a release date for a while; originally planned for a January 18th bow, it moved first to March, and then to the June date. That certainly seems to be a sign of bullishness from Summit, a hope that the film might be a slightly-adult skewing alternative to some of the other summer fare, rather than an indication of trouble. The question is whether the marketing campaign (which seems to be trying to suggest to audiences that it’s a Christopher Nolan film, complete with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman) can make it a sleeper hit, or sees it buried by bigger competition.
“Star Trek Into Darkness”
Paramount had scheduled the film for June 29th, 2012, but director J.J. Abrams didn’t commit to directing the film until well after he was done with “Super 8,” and was worried about rushing in with an unfinished script. Eventually, Abrams signed on, but only on the condition that the film was pushed back a year, saying at the time, “What all of us were concerned about is the release date being the master we were serving. Nothing is more disheartening than something going in front of the camera before it’s ready. The crew can feel it and the cast can feel it.” It’s an admirable approach, and one that we wish more people stuck to, even if it screwed up things for Paramount royally (they fast-tracked “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” to fill the gap, only to end up delaying that too and then they saw their other 2012 release “World War Z” fall apart — see below).
“Thor: The Dark World”
Originally meant to open at the end of July, this is something of a no-brainer; aimed to give a bigger gap between the film and fellow Marvel picture “Iron Man 3,” the delay lets it play out in November, where the blockbuster competition is thinner (“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” follows two weeks later), and allowing it to play across both Thanksgiving and even Christmas. There’s the slight risk in releasing a Marvel movie outside the summer (it’s the first time that’s happened), but given that it’s riding the coattails of “The Avengers,” the third most successful film in history, it should do just fine. For the record, the change was made a year before filming started, so there’s no reason for concern here….
“World War Z”
….whereas there certainly is reason for concern here. With shooting starting in the middle of 2010, “World War Z” was originally set for Christmas 2012, a slightly curious date, but perhaps less so when you take into account the success of “I Am Legend” in a similar slot five years earlier. One could dismiss the film’s move to June 2013 as being due to a desire to get out of the way of a stacked Christmas season, but unlike some of the films that did the same (“Man Of Steel,” “The Lone Ranger“), “World War Z” had no chance of being ready on time, due to well-publicized script problems, with Damon Lindelof, Drew Goddard and Christopher McQuarrie among the writers sought out and/or brought in to completely retool the film’s third act, leading to extensive reshoots in the last few months of last year. That’s always a serious warning sign (along with reports of clashes between Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster), and having to write a new ending when the beginning is already set in stone is most screenwriters’ worst nightmare. Other films that have been in similar situations (“The Invasion” and “The Stepford Wives” are the ones that spring to mind) didn’t work out well, so Paramount must be keeping their fingers crossed that it turns out more like “Men In Black 3,” which had similar mid-production rewrites from multiple participants, and which turned out not only to be a big hit, but also a fairly decent movie.
So? Which one of these pictures are you in doubt about? Which ones do you think probably benefited from more work being spent on them? We’re curious to hear your thoughts so sound off below.