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David Poland

By David Poland

Bury The Dead: 47 Ronin

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)

26 Responses to “Bury The Dead: 47 Ronin”

  1. chris says:

    Any idea how this Carl Rinsch ended up with this gig? I’m all for giving new guys a chance but a look at imdb suggests he’s so new he’s off the grid. (Unless he’s from commercials or something?)

  2. Joey Jo Jo Jr Shabadoo says:

    I used to work at Universal. I left about a year ago. In my last lunch I had dinner with my department head and asked (sarcastically), “So how long do you think Fogelson and Langley will last.”

    She responded without missing a beat, “When 47 Ronin comes out.”

    I was assuming Battleship or Snow White and the Huntsman, but not the top brass have known for awhile this was a stinker.

    To DP’s point Universal’s big Christmas release is This is 40. Doubt they want to spend for two at the same time.

  3. Krillian says:

    Is this like The Warrior’s Way with Keanu Reeves and ten-times the budget?

  4. Ohnotheydid says:

    Will this actually open in 2014 or will it be delayed again?

  5. Jason B says:

    What is the production costs on something like this? With only Keanu as a big name, the cast and crew costs should be low. Is it elaborate sets or tons of CGI? Unless it is $150-200M, just release it and with international get in the black or at least close to it. I guess I am missing why it needs to be shelved in the first place. On a cursory search, I could not find any articles about the budget on this. This story makes 47 Ronin sound like a Waterworld..

  6. David Poland says:

    Joey… to clarify… U is not saying it will open THIS December… it’s NEXT December, 2013.

  7. KrazyEyes says:

    I’ve seen the budget listed as $170 million. No idea how accurate that figure is.

  8. J says:

    “Universal was forced to admit, this morning, (by absolutely, positively insisting that 47 Ronin will open December 25, 2012)”

    Could we get another edit?

  9. David Poland says:

    Ah… oy… editing, J.

  10. hcat says:

    I don’t have the article but in a HR article prior to Battleship’s release someone mentioned that the budget for Ronin ballooned over 200. Even with 3D this seems extraordinary, I mean, isn’t it just a bunch of people on horses shooting arrows and kicking each other in the face? How expensive can that get?

  11. Joe Leydon says:

    Come to think of it, didn’t the release date for Warrior’s Way get shifted around a lot, too?

  12. Joey Jo Jo Jr Shabadoo says:

    DP – You are correct.

    Let’s see the big budget pushes of the last decade.

    Windtalkers – was pushed back at least 18 months.
    Brothers Grimm – don’t know how long.
    Where the Wild Things Are – Was in post for like two years.

  13. Krillian says:

    Seems like The 13th Warrior and Supernova had similar post-horrors.

    I keep wondering Hansel & Gretel or Jack the Giant Killer’s going to get moved again.

  14. Joe Leydon says:

    Funnily enough, Hansel and Gretel has been delayed so long, a knockoff beat it into release.

  15. SamLowry says:

    “For Rinsch, who has filmed “visual and stylish” blurbs for brands, the film is his feature film debut.”

    Once again, why why why do studios toss $200M at nobodies and then act surprised when it all turns to crap? When are we going to see another Katzenberg memo about this idiocy? Is there some sort of Uwe Boll-style tax shenanigans going on here?

  16. Joe says:

    Thing about the knockoffs, generally made by The Asylum, is that they stay on schedule and are released on their first announced date. In a way though, kind of surprised they did not delay it so as to take advantage of the big budget film’s marketing and hype.

  17. SamLowry says:

    Here’s the thing that gets me: Don’t studios do all sorts of Q testing and focus groups to find out who moviegoers like and what stories they would like to see? Who, then, would lay out the price of a ticket to watch a) Keanu in b) a samurai movie?

    Do they figure that if they throw enough CGI and pyrotechnics on the screen then audiences will show up no matter what the movie’s about?

    …maybe I should stop and slap myself because, duh, that explains Michael Bay’s entire career.

  18. Jason B says:

    @Sam, given that limited info, I would say yes or no. It would depend on how the movie looks and appears in terms of quality. ie, couldn’t say for sure until we saw a trailer. With this limited info, the pitch sounds interesting. My guess, the pitch was Last Samurai subbing Keanu for Cruse and add more warriors. (And then someone saying ONLY MORE INTENSE! Or something.)

  19. Ohnotheydid says:

    What was the thinking behind giving a first time director with no feature film experience a $100 million+ budget? Why not find someone with more experience? Is it because the studio could control a first time director better than say a more established director with a strong track record?

  20. SamLowry says:

    I blame Walmart for this outsourcing mania.

  21. Rob says:

    How do you film a blurb?

  22. SamLowry says:

    That’s what I was wondering. If he had done a commercial or two they surely would’ve said that, but what in the hell are “‘visual and stylish’ blurbs for brands”? A billboard? A few seconds of product placement on a Jumbotron? The bumper leading into or out of a real commercial? How could that possibly have given this guy enough clout to be awarded a $170M+30M+?M budget?

  23. christian says:

    Mad Men have taken over the Hollywood asylum to the extent that blurb creation is the criteria for directorial acumen. Bury The Dead Salesmen.

  24. PastePotPete says:

    “Blurb” is obviously some stupid Variety-speak for ‘commercial’. Rinsch is a commercial director who is/was Ridley Scott’s protege(and is dating his daughter). He’s been a hot director for a while now, he was attached to the Logan’s Run remake for a while.

    Here’s a Rinsch commercial:

    I wouldn’t hire him to do anything based on that. This other one he did is better:

  25. Promethe-yes says:

    I get why studios would go after these high end commercial guys–(1) They play well with others(directing for clients like coke, apple etc is a real pain in the ass and it takes a certain type of person to be able to make all parties happy) –(2) They usually can be controlled with little effort(They have to be, to be able to be trusted with billion dollar brands) — (3) they are deadly cheap and they have easy contracts(ie:no perks, or real backend) — (4)– Ya never know, you might have found the next Ridley Scott/Fincher/Marc Webb/Adrian lyne/Micheal Apted/Snyder…etc… It’s a gamble but one that has paid off a number of times.

    Ya, on paper it all makes sense… Cheap-controlled-drone directors who you can be easily manipulated to get over that dumb hump of actually making a movie.

  26. Joe Leydon says:

    Cheap? WTF? You guys do realize that, if we’re talking about cost-per-minute, commercials are far more expensive than most if not all feature films, right?

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