Friday, September 18, 2009

The wide release of Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones is apparently moved to January 15th, 2010. What does it mean for Paramount?

I'm only going by the Internet Movie Database and the more reliable Box Office Mojo. According to said page update posted last week (and unnoticed by me until yesterday), Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, Paramount's alleged Oscar contender, has been moved from December 11th, 2009 to January 15th, 2010.

Assuming this is true, does this mean anything besides the fact that Paramount may be putting its Oscar chips into Jason Reitman's Up In The Air? After a surprisingly dynamic debut at the Venice Film Festival, the George Clooney vehicle has emerged as a rare front-runner is this relatively dry awards season (what an awful year to have to find ten Best Picture contenders). But surely Paramount should have had the resources to nurture two major awards contenders, especially when one is a theoretically far-more commercial project (Up In The Air will likely make the usual Syriana/Michael Clayton $50 million)?

From moving Shutter Island to February 2010 partially because they allegedly couldn't afford to advertise it (or its inevitable default Oscar campaign) to the lack of DVD and Blu Ray review screeners (even for major titles like Braveheart and Gladiator) sent out to the various DVD review sites, there have been signs that Paramount has been hurting just a little more than other major studios. And their long-term plan to overspend on Star Trek and then hit paydirt on the sequel made more sense in better economic times, when they could depend on strong DVD sales to make up for weak overseas numbers (I may have been dead-wrong about its domestic sales last year, but Star Trek more or less performed like a Star Trek film overseas). Now its leading holiday box office and awards hopeful will be playing in limited release for over a full month to close out the year (it still opens in limited release on December 11th).

To be fair, this could be just a way for Paramount to boost its bottom line for 2010. With this move, they now have two major box office hopefuls in the first two months of the year (The Lovely Bones and Shutter Island), which will then be followed by two major Dreamworks animated films in March (How To Train Your Dragon) and May (Shrek: Happily Forever After). Oh, and May also contains what may be the summer's first or second-highest grossing film, Iron Man 2 (alas that's a Marvel production, but it won't hurt). The date change by itself may turn out to be a very smart play. The plan could just be for the picture to rack up rave reviews and/or year-end accolades and awards while Avatar and Sherlock Holmes run wild at the box office, then be unleashed just in time for the Oscar nominations.

On the plus side, if the studio is truly in trouble, then perhaps they will soon go back to their late 1990s/early 2000s bread-and-butter: mid-budget character-driven thrillers featuring adult stars for adult audiences (there are only about 97 more Alex Cross books to adapt into guilty-pleasure potboilers). But on a lighter note, the apparent 139-minute running time makes The Lovely Bones Peter Jackson's shortest film since The Frighteners back in August, 1996.

Scott Mendelson


R.L. Shaffer said...

Yeah, I've spent all week trying to get a response from Paramount regarding the screener thing. I get the same response all across town - no one seems to know what's going on. I'm not feeling too confident there's a bright future for the studio. Hope that's not the case though, I really like Paramount.

tw jackson said...

I did not know this, but that stinks. I have been really looking forward to seeing this movie. Although I am a little nervous that it will not do the book justice like movies do so many times.

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