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