One of the biggest surprises early in this summer movie season hasn’t been an unexpected hit or a huge flop, but instead a release date change. While people expected The Avengers would make bank and Battleship would sink without a trace, no one saw Paramount’s delaying of GI Joe: Retaliation coming.
The news that the action tentpole (starring Bruce Willis, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Channing Tatum) was moving to March 2013 came just five weeks before its scheduled release. Publicly, the studio said the move was necessitated when they decided to post-convert the film to 3D to boost box office in foreign markets. The reality, as many insiders have speculated, was something much different.
THR outlines the real reasons for the move in their upcoming issue – and pretty much every Internet rumor you’ve read over the past week turns out to have been true.
So, what had Paramount so concerned that they’d pull the film at the 23rd hour after spending millions on a Super Bowl ad and thereby sending a distressing signal to potential audiences? Turns out it was a number of factors.
At the forefront, studio bosses Brad Grey and Rob Moore got cold feet when it came to competing with Sony’s reboot of The Amazing Spider-Man. One producer tells THR that “they looked at the landscape and realized they couldn’t compete.” Of course, this has to make you wonder – why did it take them until late May to realize this? Thank some of 2012’s monumental flops for that.
After the well-publicized failings of John Carter and then the recent stumblings of Universal’s Battleship, Grey and Moore apparently became concerned. This is particularly true in the latter case – Battleship is another property based on a Hasbro product. When it sailed into rocky waters at the box office, it had to give everyone with a board game or toy-based movie in the development pipeline reason to pause and re-evaluate.
Another factor pushing the delay is just a good old fashioned unexpected development. Retaliation features Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis, but Channing Tatum’s role wasn’t as prominent. However, since the shooting of the film, Tatum has become a bigger box office draw – so the idea of keeping his character on the periphery of the story or having him die isn’t so great anymore. By going back to add 3D – which does often translate to a 30% increase in foreign box office – Paramount not only allows themselves to attempt to punch up the bottom line, but to re-shoot scenes and expand Tatum’s role while opening in a release window (March) where there will be significantly less competition.
With those things in mind, the move makes sense on some levels – but unfortunately, logic isn’t the only driving force when it comes to audience perception. Shifting a major summer release to March just weeks before it’s set to debut is always problematic. It signals that a studio didn’t have faith in the product they were about to release. Couple that with the track record for films with extensive reshoots (hint: it’s rarely good) and one has to wonder if Paramount has really made the right choice. To most observers, this has turned into a no-win situation for the studio, one where they could have kept their original release date, hoped for the best, and probably been trounced by another Marvel superhero or risk the bad press and ridicule for leaving film fans at the altar just weeks before release. We’ll have to wait until March to see how all of this really plays out, but rest assured – there was more to this move than simply a late-in-the-game decision to add 3D.