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Why 15 Recent Films Were Delayed & How It Worked Out for Them at the Box Office

Posted on the 04 June 2014 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

Undoubtedly sensing that we’re all kind of giggling over how unintentionally funny Channing Tatum looks in the trailers, Warner Bros. made the seemingly surprising move yesterday to delay the Wachowski’s sci-fi epic Jupiter Ascending from its July 18 release to February 6, 2015.  The official reason?  To allow the filmmakers the time to finish the special effects.  The real reason?  Actually, while such a move used to be met with nothing but cynicism, and seen as a vote of no confidence in the film by the studio (the “clearly this means the movie stinks” reaction) these days we might just take them at their word.  Well, maybe we would if those Jupiter Ascending trailers hadn’t looked so blah, and box office experts hadn’t been predicting a total domestic gross of just $58 million, especially bad considering the reported budget of $150 million.  However, while such delays used to be very rare and always the kiss of death they have become incredibly common over the past year or so.

Here is a run-down of why 15 recent films which were delayed, and how it worked out for each of them at the box office:

1)    Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad

  • Original Release Date: September 7, 2012
  • New Release Date: January 11, 2013

Reason for Delay: On July 20, 2012, James Eagan Holmes opened fire at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 and injuring 70 others in the process.   So as not to appear insensitive to victims of a real-life tragedy, Warner Bros. instantly pulled its trailer for Gangster Squad from theaters because it highlighted a scene where gunmen opened fire behind a movie screen into an unsuspecting audience.  Less than week later, Gangster Squad‘s release date was pushed back so that they could go into emergency re-shoots and remove any offending material.  The announcement of this delay came roughly 6 weeks prior to the film’s originally announced release.

Did It Work Out for Them?: NO

Box Office: Gangster Squad, which had all the classical markings of an awards contender (e.g., period drama, marquee cast, prior award winner hamming it up while playing a real life figure), received mediocre reviews, and ultimately managed just 46 million domestic, $105 million at the worldwide against a budget of $60 million.  It ultimately succeeded in not offending anyone other than, maybe, movie fans who expected more from a film starring the likes of James Brolin, Ryan Goslin, Emma Stone, and Sean Penn.

2)    Jack the Giant Slayer

JackGiant

  • Original Release Date: June 25, 2012
  • New Release Date: March 1, 2013

Reason for Delay: Jack the Giant Killer debuted its initial teaser trailer in late 2011, and promised a mid-June 2012 release. Unfortunately, the trailer looked especially bad with rather spotty special effects.  So, in January of 2012 Warner Bros. announced its decision to delay the thing a full 9 months from its intended release date.  The official reasoning for the delay was to provide the filmmakers time to finish/improve special effects and ramp up marketing by pairing final trailers to guaranteed smash hit and similarly fantasy-themed Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  Plus, they changed the name to Jack the Giant Slayer for marketing reasons, but it made no difference.

Did It Work Out for Them?: NO

Box Office: Regardless of whether it was Giant Killer or Giant Slayer its actual punch was rather meek, pulling in just $65 million domestic, $197 million worldwide, against a budget of $195 million.  Legendary Pictures reportedly lost between $125 and $140 million on the whole thing.

3)    G.I. Joe: Retaliation

gi-joe-retaliation-review

  • Original Release Date: June 29, 2012
  • New Release Date: March 28, 2013

Reason for Delay: They needed the time to post-convert the film into 3D, partially as a reflection of the financial failure earlier that summer of the non-3D Battleship.  There were rumors that the studio people got nervous about the decision to kill off Channing Tatum’s character as a surprise early on in the film, forcing the director and company to go back into re-shoots to expand Tatum’s screen time and possibly do away with his death entirely. Plus, by moving they escaped having to compete against The Amazing Spider-Man, Ted, and The Dark Knight Rises.

Did It Work Out for Them?: YES.

Box Office: The Channing Tatum rumors were a bunch of bunk, and while the 3D conversion reeked of a studio desperate to shine a turd into something less turd-like it actually worked.  G.I. Joe: Retaliation pulled in $122 million domestic, $375 million worldwide, against a $130 million budget.  That made it a bigger worldwide hit/lower domestic hit than the first G.I. Joe.

4)    Star Trek Into Darkness

Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-First-Official-Teaser-Poster-Is-Here

  • Original Release Date: June 29, 2012
  • New Release Date: May 16, 2013

Reason for Delay: Paramount announced a release date before J.J. Abrams had officially signed on, and by the time he did come around he only agreed to do it if they would push the film back a year.  He didn’t think the script was ready, and wouldn’t be rushed. This then forced Paramount to fast-track G.I. Joe: Retaliation to fill Into Darkness‘ intended slot [see above to see how that played out].  As admirable as Abrams’ intentions were to delay the film to make sure they got it right, it did ultimately mean he allowed 4 years to pass between his first Star Trek and its sequel.  As a point of comparison, Robert Downey, Jr. appeared as Iron Man in three films (Iron Man 2 in 2010, The Avengers in 2012, Iron Man 3 in 2013) in the time between the first Star Trek and Into Darkness.  

Did It Work Out for Them?: YES AND NO

Box Office: Box office experts believed the extra time would allow the Abrams Star Trek fandom to build to the point that Into Darkness would be one of the biggest hits of the summer, grossing anywhere between $250-325 million domestic and $400 million foreign.  It didn’t do that, instead finishing with $228 million domestic, $461 million worldwide, against a $190 million budget.  This did make it the second highest grossing Star Trek film ever domestically, first highest worldwide, and is more than enough to warrant a sequel.  Still, while the expectations may have been unfairly high they were certainly not met.

5)    The Great Gatsby

GGXV

  • Original Release Date: December 25, 2012
  • New Release Date: May 10, 2013

Reason for Delay:  In August 2012, Warner Bros. looked at everything its Baz Lurhmann-directed Great Gatsby would be going up against at ChristmasThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Les Miserables, Django Unchained – and decided to push it back, arguing, “We think moviegoers of all ages are going to embrace it, and it makes sense to ensure this unique film reaches the largest audience possible.”  That sounds nice, but rumors of massive re-shoots and clashes with Lurhmann made it seem like Warner Bros.’ bona-fide awards contender had turned into a mess they didn’t know what to do with.

Did It Work Out for Them?: YES

Box Office: The finished film features a career highlight performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, who now absolutely owns the proper way to say the phrase, “Hello, old sport.”  It turned into one of the surprise hits of the summer, opening far above expectations with $50 million on the way to a final domestic gross of $144 million, $351 million worldwide, against a budget of $105 million.  By the time awards season finally arrived awards bodies embraced DiCaprio’s performance in Wolf of Wall Street, forgetting about Gatsby.  Oh well.  This Gatsby did what most awards-contenders can’t: it became a huge hit.

6)    Now You See Me

now_you_see_me_ver4

  • Original Release Date: January 18, 2013
  • New Release Date: March 2013
  • Final Release Date: May 31, 2013

Reason for Delay: Nothing specific, actually.  Instead, it seems more like Summit/Lionsgate grew increasingly confident about the film’s box office chances, originally planning to dump it in January before pushing it to the historically more lucrative month of March before dropping it as an adult skewering alternative smack dab in the middle of the summer movie season.  Going up against usual box office king Will Smith’s After Earth as well as carryover business for Fast & Furious 6, The Hangover 3, and Star Trek Into Darkness most experts had Now You See Me as something which would have better served sticking to its March release.

Did It Work Out for Them?: YES

Box Office: Now You See Me was another one of last summer’s surprise hits, ending up with $111 million domestic, $351 million worldwide, against a $75 million budget.  A sequel has officially been announced, and is currently in pre-production.

7)    World War Z

world-war-z-tv-still5

  • Original Release Date: December 21, 2012
  • New Release Date: June 21, 2013

Reason for Delay: Paramount first announced the delay in March 2012.  Its third act needed to be completely re-tooled by screenwriters Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard.  This resulted in  nearly two months of re-shoots in October/November of 2012, ballooning the budget to $190 million in the process and various reports in-fighting between Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster.  Beyond crafting an entirely new ending, other sections of the film were cut out entirely and replaced with new content so as to pull the film back from any overt politicizing and more toward fun, summer blockbuster entertainment.  All told, the re-shoots accounted for 30 to 40 minutes of the final 116 minute running time.

Did It Work Out for Them?: YES

Box Office: Going into the summer no one in their right mind was expecting World War Z to a bigger worldwide hit than Star Trek Into Darkness, both from Paramount, but that’s exactly what happened.  Audiences embraced World War Z to the tune of $202 million domestic, $540 million worldwide, enough to potentially get a sequel although there remain insider reports which argue the budget was far higher than the official $190 million and that this wasn’t nearly as profitable for Paramount as it might seem.

8)    The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger

  • Original Release Date: mid-2011
  • New Release Date: December 21, 2012
  • New New Release Date: May 31, 2013
  • Final Release Date: July 3, 2013

Reason for Delay: The Lone Ranger actually kicked around Disney for a couple of years, with Johnny Depp’s attachment to play Tonto first announced in late 2008.  It kept getting pushed back because there’d be another Pirates of the Caribbean movie to make, which took priority.  They finally had a director in Gore Verbiniski by late 2010, and were seemingly good to go, merely waiting for Depp to finish filming Dark Shadows.  Then in August 2011, Disney dang near canceled the project altogether, shutting down production to force producer Jerry Bruckheimer and company to get their dang budget under control, which they ultimately did by deferring Verbinski, Bruckheimer, Depp, and Armie Hammer’s salaries by 20% each.  By the time they started filming, they seemed on track to meet their new May 31, 2013 release date, which was ultimately pushed back to the Fourth of July weekend not due to production difficulties but to take advantage of that weekend suddenly opening up after Steven Spielberg’s Robopocalypse was delayed indefinitely.

Did It Work Out for Them?: NO

Box Office: The repeated delays did give The Lone Ranger the feel of a lame duck, but Disney sure didn’t treat it that way, using every penny of its reported $150 million marketing budget to aggressively promote the film as if it could be willed into becoming a Pirates of the Caribbean-level hit.  Instead, it only grossed $260 million worldwide, $89 million domestic, all for a film which carried an official production budget of $225 million.  Disney reportedly lost somewhere between $160 and $190 million as a result.

9)    Elysium

Elysium-Second-Trailer

  • Original Release Date: March 1, 2013
  • New Release Date: August 9, 2013

Reason for Delay: Elyisum, a sci-fi epic set on a space station occupied by the very wealthy while the rest of humanity lives on a ravaged, overpopulated Earth, was a tough sell for Sony, despite the presence of Matt Damon, whose commitment to the project was such that he actually shaved his head for the role.  So, when Disney set up Oz: The Great and Powerful to open a week after Elysium Sony got nervous.  When their RoboCop re-make which was meant to come out in August needed a little more time they jumped at the chance to push it back to 2014 and push Elysium back 6 fulls months to RoboCop‘s old release date, which also happened to be the equivalent weekend of when Elysium director Neill Blomkamp’s breakout hit District 9 came out in 2009.  These moves were announced in October 2012, giving Elysium plenty of time to go back to do some re-shoots, and for Sony to announce they were especially formatting the film for IMAX.

Did It Work Out for Them?: YES AND NO

Box Office: Elysium did fine but not great, ending with $93 million domestic, $286 million worldwide against a budget of $115 million.  This made it a bigger worldwide hit than District 9 ($210 million), but nowhere near as profitable since District 9‘s budget was a mere $30 million.  Among August 2013 releases, Elysium was overshadowed by surprises hits We’re the Milers ($150 million domestic) and Lee Daniels’ The Butler ($116 million domestic).

10)    Gravity

gravity-movie-poster-closeup

  • Original Release Date: November 21, 2012
  • New Release Date: October 4, 2013

Reason for Delay: Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men fans had been awaiting fdirector Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity for years, and had to learn to wait a fair deal longer in May 2012 when Warner Bros. announced the film was being pushed back nearly a full year.  Why? Because this is the type of film which was so impossible to pull off the filmmakers had to literally create the technology themselves.  Plus, WB might have wanted to mimic their release strategy for Argo and propel Gravity into an awards contender.

Did It Work Out for Them?: YES

Box Office: Gravity tied with American Hustle for the most Academy Award nominations (10), and walked away with 7 wins, 6 in the technical categories and 1 for Cuaron as Best Director.  Beyond that, it was a ginormous box office hit, bucking conventional wisdom about how much October releases can make by finishing with $716 million worldwide, $274 million domestic against a budget of $100 million.

11)    Captain Phillips

captain-phillips-movie

  • Original Release Date: March 2013
  • New Release Date: October 11, 2013

Reason for Delay: Although not ever officially explained, Captain Phillips 7-month delay was likely because Sony realized it had a bonafide awards contender which could play on the film circuits to build buzz, particularly about Tom Hanks’ performance, in the lead-up to an Argo-like October release.  After all, just like Argo Captain Phillips was a hostage drama based on real life events.

Did It Work Out for Them?: YES

Box Office: Captain Phillips managed to convert its critical acclaim to plenty of butts in seats, earning $218 million worldwide, $107 million domestic against a budget of $55 million.  It was actually a bigger international hit than Argo from a year prior.  Unfortunately, while the film picked up plenty of nods from various critics associations and less notable awards bodies its director (Paul Greengrass) and star (Tom Hanks) were snubbed by the Academy, who handed the film 6 nominations (most notably Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay) but no wins.

12)    Carrie

Carrie Chloe Grace Moretz

  • Original Release Date: March 15, 2013
  • New Release Date: October 18, 2013

Reason for Delay: Sony announced this move around 3 months prior to the film’s intended release, and it seemed motivated not by a need for tinkering but instead to simply run away from competition.  In March, it would have gone up against Oz: The Great and Powerful and The Host, and open less than a month prior to similar horror remake Evil Dead.  The move to October was designed to capitalize on the fact that for the first time since 2008 there wasn’t going to be a new Paranormal Activity movie coming out that month to dominate Halloween.

Did It Work Out for Them?: NO

Box Office: As it turns out, you can’t just simply toss out a horror movie at Halloween, and sit back and count your money.  Carrie failed to catch on, trailing The Evil Dead’s domestic ($52 million for ED vs. $35 million for Carrie) and worldwide ($97 million for ED, $84 million for Carrie) performance.  On top of that, Carrie actually cost nearly twice as much to make as Evil Dead ($17 million for Carrie, $30 million for ED).  By running away from Evil Dead did they sacrifice something by not getting to be the first big horror remake released in 2013?  Or was this movie never going to do any better than this?

13)    47 Ronin

47-ronin-3

  • Original Release Date: November 21, 2012
  • New Release Date: February 8, 2013
  • Final Release Date: December 25, 2013

Reason for Delay: Carl Erik Rinsch had only ever directed commercials before 47 Ronin, but rather than make the transition somewhat seamlessly to big budget film like other music video/commercial directors before him Rinsch appeared in over his head, causing the film to ultimately be delayed by 13 months to allow for extensive re-shoots.  The tension came between the artier, Japanese samurai film Rinsch wanted to make, and the Lord of the Rings in the East blockbuster the studio wanted.  When Universal decided the movie needed to be filmed in 3D, a decision which necessitated building very expensive sets in England and Hungary, the budget skyrocketed, ultimately ending up at $175 million after tax breaks.  By the end, there were reports that Rinsch’s tensions with the studio had elevated to the point that he was seeking arbitration assistance from the Directors Guild of America.

Did It Work Out for Them?: NO

Box Office: Ronin 47 ended up with mere $38 million domestic, and although decent international play bumped the worldwide gross up to $150 million the experts say Universal likely lost between $120 and $150 million.  Universal clearly knew they had a turkey, officially announcing weeks prior to its release that they had already taken an unspecified write-down on the project which they were able to weather to due to the successes of Despicable Me 2 and Fast & Furious 6 earlier in the year.

14)    Monuments Men

Monuments Men Clooney

  • Original Release Date: December 18, 2013
  • Final Release Date: February 7, 2014

Reason for Delay: According to Deadline, the film was delayed a little over two months before its intended release because the visual effects could not be completed in time.  Plus, composer Alexandre Desplat had yet to even record a musical score for the film.  The move was nonetheless surprising sine as a WWII period piece starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchette, Bill Murray, and John Goodman, among others, it seemed an obvious piece of awards-bait.

Did It Work Out for Them?: PROBABLY.  There’s no reason to think it would have done any better had it made it’s Christmas release and gone up against far more formidable competition.

Box Office: It set career highs in domestic ($78 million) and worldwide gross ($154 million) for Clooney’s directorial career but couldn’t have made much of a profit considering its $70 million production budget.

15)    RoboCop

RoboCop+remake

 

  • Original Release Date: August 9, 2013
  • Final Release Date: February 12, 2014

Reason for Delay: Similar to Jupiter Ascending, RoboCop was meant to be a summer release which was delayed to allow time to finish the special effects.  It, too, was ultimately dumped in February, which experts saw as a sign of the studio’s lack of faith in the project.  However, the studios have been experimenting as of late and responding to the requests of theater owners to spread out their big budget movies more evenly to try and make historically weak months like February more lucrative.

Did It Work Out for Them?: NO

Box Office: Well, that didn’t really happen for RoboCop.  At least not domestically, where it finished with $58 million, identical to Sony’s most recent sci-fi ’80s re-make Total Recall.  However, it is was quite the international hit resulting in a worldwide gross of $242 million against a budget of $100 million.  One imagines that type of international performance is what motivated Warner Bros. to try Jupiter Ascending out as a February release.

At least half of the films on this list ended up doing perfectly fine if not great, likely benefiting in each case from the delay.  Plus, in the form of World War Z and The Lone Ranger we have extreme examples of when a troubled production results in a big hit and when it turns into an embarrassing box office bomb.  So, it looks like there’s around a 50/50 shot that this delay for Jupiter Ascending ends up meaning nothing at all.

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