‘G.I. Joe’: Why did Paramount suddenly delay the action sequel?Written by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Things get delayed. It happens. Plans change, events occur you never anticipated, an idea strikes and you have to reschedule. No biggie. In the world of movies, release dates get shuffled more than a deck of cards at a casino. The tentative starting day won’t work for whatever reason, so the flick gets scooted down the road.
What is virtually unheard of, however, is a move like the one Paramount Pictures made on May 24. With one of its summer “tent pole” films set to debut in just a month — the action sequel “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” starring names like Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis — the studio abruptly announced that the film would be delayed from June 29 until March 29.
A bump of nine months, revealed a mere four weeks before release? With millions already spent on advertising, including a Super Bowl commercial last February? What could possibly be the studio’s motivation for such a drastic move, so late in the game?
The official word came along with the news of the switch: Paramount was converting “G.I. Joe” to 3-D. The change would take time (at least, if they wanted the conversion to be any good), hence the delay. Sounds straightforward enough. But is this really the only motivation?
Not too long ago, the benefits of releasing a film in 3-D were supposedly self-evident. It added to a film’s bottom line with increased ticket prices, the gimmick appealed to kids and it made a film all but impossible to pirate. Audiences seemed to love it — James Cameron made a mint with “Avatar,” and internationally, 3-D movies proved to be a huge draw.
But that was then, and this is now. More and more, domestic audiences have made their ambivalence toward the format known, as 2-D screenings of films available in both formats now pretty easily outdraw their 3-D counterparts. Delaying “G.I. Joe” solely to add an increasingly unpopular format seems logically dubious at first glance.
Not to mention all the other money the studio is leaving on the table. Beyond the millions in advertising the studio has already paid for, there is merchandising to be considered — a major factor when a movie is based off a popular toy line.
Michael Crawford of the toy review site mwctoys.com noted in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star that a whole line of figures, play sets and more were being produced to accompany the film’s debut — much of it already on store shelves. “Obviously it will hurt Hasbro, since the change is coming so late in the process,” Crawford said.
“They have to move forward as planned, since the merchandise is already produced. It’s too expensive to simply leave it sitting in warehouses waiting for the now much-later release. It also is too much of a burden on their cash flow, having spent the money on producing the figures but with no return if they held them back. Hopefully, Hasbro thought of this risk and built something into their contract for a penalty for this sort of late-term delay.”
So for all the downsides to the release date’s move, what compelled Paramount to take such drastic measures? Part of it may have been seeing how another movie based upon a Hasbro franchise was faring. On May 18, Universal released its dubious adaptation of the classic board game Battleship in the U.S. It garnered a paltry $25 million in its opening weekend. Maybe someone saw those numbers and got gun shy about another military toy movie releasing so soon after.
In addition, though “Battleship” is tanking domestically, it’s been far more popular worldwide — grossing over $230 million so far. And since 3-D is still a draw in most of the rest of the world, it stands to reason that Paramount would want to upgrade in an effort to improve the film’s chances of earning moolah anywhere BUT in its home country.
Besides, even without “Joe,” Paramount isn’t exactly hurting for cash this summer. When Marvel’s new parent company Disney bought the rights for “The Avengers” and next year’s “Iron Man 3″ from Paramount, it agreed to pay either $115 million or a percentage of the films’ distribution fees. Considering how “Avengers” alone is already cruising past the billion dollar mark, the studio is already set to make a pretty penny off of two films it will have almost nothing else to do with.
The big question left is how “G.I. Joe” will fare in March. Though “The Hunger Games” proved major blockbusters can open in spring, that was a highly anticipated adaptation of a hit print franchise, not a mindless action flick based on a toy line. Will the move end up killing whatever momentum the sequel had, or is Paramount making the best move for its long-term prospects? Time will tell.