Every so often, Hollywood studios find themselves in a game of $300 million chicken, when two films with strikingly similar premises are green-lit simultaneously. And almost invariably, the first film out of the blocks ends up as the more successful: "Capote" landed a full year before the identically-plotted "Infamous," and despite a less starry cast walked away with more awards and a bigger haul, while "Dante's Peak" outgrossed the similarly lava-themed "Volcano" by over $50 million.
The latest entertaining game of brinkmanship has been between Universal's "Snow White and the Huntsman" and Relativity's "The Brothers Grimm: Snow White," with both films attempting to reboot the classic fairy tale for a modern audience, both greenlit in the wake of the $1 billion success of "Alice in Wonderland." And for some time, Relativity had the advantage, landing A-lister Julia Roberts as the villain and a release date of June 29th, 2012, almost six full months before Universal's project, which was floundering in casting its male lead, Eric the Huntsman, as seemingly every eligible male lead passed on it, from Tom Hardy to Joel Edgerton.
But things have changed somewhat. "Thor" star Chris Hemsworth is now officially locked in to join Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron and Sam Clafin in the Rupert Sanders-helmed "Snow White and the Huntsman," and Universal have celebrated by pulling the rug out from under their rival, and moving their own film up to June 1st, 2012, four weeks before "The Brothers Grimm: Snow White" was due for release. How 'bout them poisoned apples?
Judd Apatow's as-yet-untitled "Knocked Up" spin-off, with Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks and Megan Fox, has been moved off its date to make way for the fairytale film: it'll move way back til December, possibly taking 'Huntsman''s original December 21st date, which intriguingly puts the film into the thick of the awards season -- possibly a better home for it, after "Funny People" got buried in the summer of 2009. Update: A rep for Universal confirms that the film is indeed slated for release on December 21st, 2012.
Still, advantage Universal for the moment, even if a September start-date (unlikely to be moved up, with Hemsworth reprising his godly role in Marvel's "The Avengers" for much of the summer) gives them a tight window to complete the picture. Relativity could yet move their film further forward, but Universal's move hasn't left them much room: director Tarsem ain't Mr. Speedy in post-production (he's been in post on "Immortals" for over a year), and March, a natural home for the film considering "Alice in Wonderland"'s success a year ago, is already stuffed with would-be tentpoles like "John Carter of Mars," "The Hunger Games," "21 Jump Street" and "Clash of the Titans 2."
If we were betting men, we'd say that "The Brothers Grimm: Snow White" will either take a chance on an April slot, in the hope of replicating the early success of "Fast Five" this year, or they'll hold their ground. If they do the latter, all's not lost: both "A Bug's Life" and "Armageddon," which were released weeks or months after similarly-premised films "Antz" and "Deep Impact" respectively, nearly doubled their predecessors' grosses. [Deadline]