It seems completely against common sense, but as studios continue to turn toward making expensive tentpoles their bread and butter, they also seem to be shrinking the production timelines for these films with one year or less now becoming the norm. "X-Men: First Class" will be coming in under the wire to make it's June release date; "Hunger Games" is still casting and it's now eleven months until it's scheduled to hit theaters and "The Avengers" just started filming this week for a release date that will arrive almost exactly a year later. And with special effects usually dominating these films, filmmakers and effect houses are feeling the crunch and some hard lessons are being learned as a result.
Variety reports that Warner Bros. has opened their wallets adding another $9 million to the budget of this summer's "Green Lantern" and have hired additional visual effects houses to help get the film finished in time. So, a troubled production or just the reality of the current framework of making movies? Seems like a little bit of both.
From the studio side, all things are running as they should be. "There is no problem on 'Green Lantern,'" Chris de Faria, Warner's exec VP of digital production, animation and visual effects told the trade. "We try to add things to make the movie better until the 11th hour. That doesn't mean we're risking the movie up to the 11th hour." That being said, other suits at Warner Bros. more or less admitted last month that early trailers and footage from the film failed to impress as it wasn't quite ready on time. But what will it take for studios to give these lucrative franchises more breathing room?
"I think the day (the system) breaks is the day everyone will revise their thinking," said Marvel exec VP of visual effects Victoria Alonso. "Until that day comes, filmmakers are going to push it to the limit. I think it's sad that we will have to watch one of us fail to learn our lesson." She adds that with release dates often announced before shooting begins, productions are always behind the curve. "So you are always chasing your tail. You work backwards from that release date, then you add production not being ready to shoot or location complications and you shave the weeks you push from post."
As for "Green Lantern" it appears that reactions at test screenings have caused some scenes to be put back into the movie -- including on pre-credit CG sequence -- in addition to 3D which it hadn't been budgeted for originally. And this is not the first time Warner Bros. has been burned by tight deadlines. As you might recall, plans to release "Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1" in 3D were scrapped when the post-production conversion couldn't be completed in time (Part 2 will arrive in 3D). So what have the studios learned in all this? Nothing apparently. Until a film misses a release date or completely tanks only then will the thinking change.
Presuming all the final polish is finished in time, "Green Lantern" hits theaters on June 17th.