Paramount Pictures startled Hollywood recently when it decided to pull “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” from its June 29 release slot.
Release dates tend to be engraved in stone in Tinsel Town, with studios staking out a claim for a Memorial Day weekend or July 4 release date several years in advance.
Pulling the plug so close to a release date costs a considerable amount of money in terms of the marketing that begins two or three months in advance of a film’s release — the trailers for “Retaliation” have been up and running in theaters for weeks now and Hasbro has already launched a line of action figures tied in to the original release date.
Paramount is known as one of the most fiscally conservative studios. Many of its “tentpole” blockbusters are actually co-productions or releasing deals in which the studio only owns a piece of the action — limiting its profits but also putting a lid on its losses. Paramount almost never takes the sort of high stakes risk Disney did with “John Carter” (resulting in a $200 million write-off).
Because of the studio’s deal with Marvel coming to an end, it is getting “only” eight percent of the proceeds from “The Avengers” but that already amounts to $100 million.
“Retaliation” was recalled in order to do a 3D conversion on the film — and to avoid competition with the new “Spider-Man” reboot that will open the first weekend in July.
Moviegoers in this country might be tired of the 3D invasion launched by “Avatar,” but moviegoers overseas are still crazy about the process, especially the huge new audiences in Russia and China. The surcharge on tickets for 3D films can add 30 percent to the potential gross (this is one of the reasons “The Avengers” has been making so much money so quickly).
Hollywood’s relationship with China, in particular, is getting much closer. The studios holding their noses on free speech issues there in order to tap into a huge entertainment consumption market. China places restrictions on the number of non-Chinese films that can be released in that country, so Hollywood is quickly patching together co-production deals on forthcoming blockbusters that will exempt them from “foreign” quotas.
So, you can expect to see even more 3D films in your multiplex and don’t be surprised when scenes filmed in China start popping up in more Hollywood productions.