Universal sent a crystal-clear signal this morning – all the while absolutely, positively insisting that 47 Ronin will open December 25, 2013 – that 47 Ronin is in deep trouble and will not open before 2014.
They were forced because it was time to launch marketing for a February 2013 release. And since that wasn’t happening – they filled the slot with a Seth Gordon comedy called Identity Thief – they had to announce something. So they claim a December 25, 2013 release date.
But there is virtually no chance in hell that they are releasing 47 Ronin for Christmas 2013. This is a movie they are trying to keep off the books for as long as jobs are being threatened and December happens to be the most expensive month in which to release a film. But look for a quiet move to January or February of 2014 herein the U.S. of A… if they release the film at all (probably under contractual obligation to do so eventually)… or for new management to make some other decision. The big question is what one can expect in terms of an international theatrical.
The last time I recall a movie being shoved around like this was another Universal title, the vaunted D-Tox/Eye See You. Shot in 1999, it was finally released worldwide in 2002, with the last stop being the U.S., in September of that year under the Eye See You title.
Mostly, I feel bad for the team at the studio. 47 Ronin is (yet) another bloated production that is being disappeared as quietly as possible, lest it sink the, uh, battleship. Historically, when studios start trying to push off their losers instead of bellying up to the bar and eating their gruel in a quick way in a strategically-chosen quarter, the problems don’t go away, they pile up.
Disney may have had two big financial problems with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and John Carter… but they released the movies on schedule, braced for the hits, and kept moving forward (albeit with bodies thrown overboard for each film). In the case of 47 Ronin, the ability to rationalize the moves as an effort to somehow improve the product is over. Now it’s like one of those cartoon bombs where Wile E. Coyote runs with it as gunpowder falls out of the top and the lit flame chases the bomb… until it eventually goes off behind a rock and Wile E. comes out, stunned and covered in soot.
(edit… added sentence… 11:19a)