A sudden reshuffling has led to some murmuring about what is going on over at Universal. Host to a number of underperformers both small ("Scott Pilgrim") and huge ("Green Zone," "The Wolf Man") over the last year, the studio is being forced to re-evaluate their decision-making. As a result, POOF, "The Thing," their big April pre-summer release, is gone from the schedule. In its place on April 29, 2011 is "Fast Five," the fifth movement in the "Fast And The Furious" concerto.
This change could mean multiple things. It certainly seems like a gunshy strategy involving "Fast Five," but probably a smart one. The fourth film, "Fast And Furious," pulled in the series' best numbers as an April release, and "Fast Five" now gains the heat of kicking off right before the big summer movie season. Even with Dwayne Johnson aboard this time around, nothing guarantees that heat would have remained, as the last film thrived in an uncompetitive release period. It certainly seems like a rough summer,and the original June 10th date had the film competing with JJ Abrams' highly buzzed "Super 8" and the chick flick "Something Borrowed" with "Green Lantern" arriving the following weekend; a move to April seems like a safer bet.
But "The Thing"? The film no longer has a place on the schedule, a status that always seems... foreboding? "John Carpenter's The Thing," which this film serves as a prequel for, arrived in the summer of 1982*, but it never stood a chance within weeks of the release of "E.T. The Extra Terrestrial." Perhaps Universal doesn't want history to repeat itself, especially with the possibility of releasing what is sure to be 2010's snowiest movie just as the weather is getting hot. A Universal spokeswoman claims the film is "not ready," which seems more than odd, considering the movie wasn't due for another six months. Smells like reshoots....
Meanwhile, the L.A. Times reports that the "Ouija" project Universal was developing for a late 2012 release might also be in trouble. The report confirms that "Taken" director Pierre Morel was the first choice to direct the film, but that he may have run into "creative difficulties" with the brass. Universal had joined with Hasbro and Platinum Dunes to produce this film, and that's a whole lot of creatively/morally bankrupt people to have creative difficulties with. Considering the nature of the project, these must have been the most depressing discussions in the world. Morel may possibly use this hiatus to jump onto Sam Raimi's "Earth Defense Force," though we wouldn't be surprised if arguing with Hasbro and Platinum Dunes executives causes him to go on a "Cecil B. DeMented"-type rage across Los Angeles.
Hasbro signed a development deal with Universal a couple of years ago to bring their properties to the screen, but Universal has stalled on developing these films, and with the need for an upcoming slate of recognizable brand names, they have been forced to acquiesce to Hasbro's desires, which include nailing the November '12 release date in place to allow for multiple merchandising opportunities. With their planned "Stretch Armstrong" (fucking why?) collaboration hitting the skids until possibly 2013, Hasbro is pushing Universal to get this done immediately, or else face a stiff penalty fine for violating their contract. It boggles the mind how a once-great studio like Universal can become Hasbro's bitch, but there you have it.
Universal remains dedicated to the "Ouija" release date, so the search for another director is ongoing. In the meantime, production continues on Universal's "adaptation" of "Battleship," a $200 million summer tentpole that makes you wonder exactly how much is the "penalty" Hasbro would task Universal with. Is the other option to spend $80-100 million on a goddamned "Ouija" movie, something that sounds like a drunken dare between ridiculous billionaires? Universal is also in the middle of being sold from General Electric to Comcast, which is causing even more uncertainty behind closed doors.
The L.A. Times also reported another release change, completely taking the Lowell Ganz/Babaloo Mandel-penned comedy "Ballers" off the schedule. The film, about a group of men at a LeBron James fantasy camp, had a November release date planned, and was to shoot this summer. But the act of completely skull-fucking the sports community of Cleveland in order to have year-round summer camp with friends in Miami kept James from meeting his obligations.
*"Blade Runner" came out on the same day. 1982 was awesome.