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Paramount Pushes Shutter Island to February

by Anne Thompson
August 21, 2009 9:41 AM
  • |
Thompson on Hollywood

In a startling reveal of how dire studio financials have become in this recession, Paramount made a swift and surgical move to trim its year-end budget. Marketing meetings took place last week for Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island, based on the Dennis Lehane novel and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Running a little over two hours, the period mystery looks thrilling and commercial as hell. But the studio looked at the cold hard millions the release would require --even in October, with a possible costly Academy campaign down the line--and pushed the picture back to February 19.

UPDATE: Paramount issued this statement from chairman and CEO Brad Grey:

"Our 2009 slate was greenlit in a very different economic climate and as a result we must remain flexible and willing to recalibrate and adapt to a changing environment. This is a situation facing every single studio as we all work through the financial pressures associated with the broader downturn. Like every business, we must make difficult choices to maximize our overall success and to best manage Paramount’s business in a way that serves Viacom and its shareholders, while providing the film with every possible chance to succeed both creatively and financially.

Leonardo DiCaprio is among the most talented actors working today and Martin Scorsese is not just one of the world's most significant filmmakers, but also a personal friend. Following a highly successful 2009, we have every confidence that Shutter Island is a great anchor to lead off our 2010 slate and the shift in date is the best decision for the film, the studio and ultimately Viacom."

The studio did the same thing last year with DreamWorks' The Soloist, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx, which was originally intended as an award season play. The adult audience drama was dead on arrival when it opened April 24. The studio backed down on pushing Ed Zwick's Defiance to 2009, granting the filmmaker a limited year-end opening, but the movie never got a full-scale Oscar push.

The crowded fall and holiday seasons are prime awards territory, but the competitive wide releases and overall marketing noise make it more expensive to launch a big picture. This move allows the studio to shave some numbers off its year-end budget and a February campaign costs less, too. The movie, which veers into horrific genre territory, had some Oscar buzz, but studio execs were downplaying their awards plans. Besides, Scorsese's 2006 The Departed won four Oscars, including best picture and director.

"It says a lot about the health of the industry," said one source close to Shutter Island. "The picture had buzz and plays well. Dennis Lehane saw it and loved it."

UPDATE: One agent has another interpretation: Paramount was scared of a non-brand-name movie that veered into Cape Fear territory. "It was not a high-concept movie. It looks small. It was expensive. If it was a P & A issue, they could have found someone to take the P & A on that."

Here's the trailer:

[Hat Tip: DHD.]


  • Brian | August 24, 2009 10:20 AMReply

    Ryan, I'm intrigued by that Ron Meyer story, but I'm not sure what the implication is. That studio heads wouldn't know a good director when they saw one or they simply wouldn't care? Or that there no more good directors worth working with?

  • Tony McIntosh | August 23, 2009 12:55 PMReply

    This was a bad corporate decision and just goes to show studios care only about money. You would rather not release a Martin Scorsese starring DiCaprio based on an acclaimed book for the award season because it is "small" or not "high concept"? If it was generic lowest common denominator crap they would release it this year? As an emerging filmmaker myself, I don't look forward to swimming with these sharks.

  • Ryan Sartor | August 22, 2009 4:23 AMReply

    This really is shocking. I once met Ron Meyer at a Q&A and I asked him if there were any directors whom he wanted to work with. He said, "No. Not really. If I wanted to, I could." I really understood the studio mindset after I heard that.

  • Sergio | August 22, 2009 4:22 AMReply

    If it was Michael Bay's Shuuter Island (and everything that name means) would the studio have poushed the film back? This SUCKS!

  • Scott | August 22, 2009 2:47 AMReply

    Unbelievable. This was a sure-fire Oscar and commercial hit if Paramount had the intelligence and guts to market it seriously. Having read the novel and seen all the footage currently available, it makes no sense that the studio wouldn't consider this worthy of the October slot. It's arguably more commercial than The Departed, and over the last decade at the very least, Scorsese has been a proven brand-name himself.

    Feel sorry for the filmmakers and DiCaprio and co. It's been an extremely weak year in Hollywood thus far, and they would have been near certainties for Oscar noms (if not gold). It's even more bullshit when Grey and his chumps have had probably the most financially successful season of all major studios too.

  • Mary | August 21, 2009 12:38 PMReply

    Can't believe they pushed back a Scorsese film!!! There was good buzz for this film. My friends and I were even hoping it would premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.
    Guess we won't be seeing any Paramount pics for a long time. We are sooo annoyed

  • eb | August 21, 2009 11:15 AMReply

    They pushed back a freakin' SCORSESE movie? grParamount has earned my eternal scorn.

  • Alan Green | August 21, 2009 11:07 AMReply

    i think it was the right move. SI is a blend of genres. cop-noir detective, pysch, creep, thriller. it's hard to sell. doesn't seem like it could compete in the fall season or be the type of film the academy would award, or even nominate.

    i think it looks great and can't wait to see it. however, i only plan on buying one ticket and one copy of the disc

  • Joe Leydon | August 21, 2009 10:23 AMReply

    Well, gosh, think of all the money they could save if they didn't release any movies at all, ever. Or even make them in the first place.

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