By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com January 23, 2013 at 2:07PM
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.
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.
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.