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Coming . . . Eventually

You may have read about certain films, but don't hold your breath waiting to see them. More than two dozen have been dropped from fall and holiday release schedules.

September 29, 1996|Judy Brennan | Judy Brennan is a regular contributor to Calendar

It's time to follow the bouncing movie . . . all the way into next year.

More than two dozen studio and independent films have been dropped from fall/holiday release schedules for reasons that include troubled shoots, warring co-stars and competition that is either too plentiful or too good. So some films are pushed back to winter or spring in hopes of gaining an audience by playing against lower-profile rivals.

One United Artists film, in fact, has drifted off and on the numerous release lists so many times that its mere mention has become an industry joke. Those familiar with "The Fantasticks" say the $10-million-plus musical, which stars Joel Grey and has been floating around for nearly two years, is so bad the studio's video division doesn't even want it as a straight-to-video release.

UA says diplomatically that the film is "currently on hold awaiting a release date."

"The product glut is enormous," says John Krier, president of the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. "There's just too many pictures out there at the moment, and that means reshuffling."

All told, 132 studio and independent films are planned for release between Sept. 6 and the end of the year, compared with 111 in '95.

Columbia's costly "Devil's Own"--bedeviled, sources say, by production delays, an ever-changing script and stars Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford muscling director Alan J. Pakula for more screen time--is now planned for March 26, pushed back from December. Insiders say the film ran 30 days over schedule.

"Harrison is a tremendous actor and his input is always on the mark," says a source close to Ford. "In a movie sense, it's almost like he's going through a midlife crisis. He's 52 and still perceived as an action actor. He has told friends that he feels like he's got one more good action picture in him, and that will probably be the fourth 'Indiana Jones.'

"He was hoping 'Sabrina' would be a change for future roles, but it didn't work. And now he's in a picture opposite a guy that looks like Pitt. That's rough for an aging heartthrob and great actor."

Harry Clein, a spokesman for the film, said he had heard reports about differences between the stars but never witnessed any problems. Should that prove true, Clein noted: "A lot of productions that appear to be smooth rides fail miserably when they hit theaters. Ones that are filled with angst can often turn out to be the best films of the year."

Columbia declined to comment on any purported problems with the stars and says it is thrilled with the film.

Columbia's "Excess Baggage," produced by and starring Alicia Silverstone, has gone from fall to January to 1997's first quarter, second quarter and now to Aug. 15.

Heavy competition also pushed Columbia's "Anaconda" as well as the TriStar films "The Pest," "Kilronen" and "Donnie Brasco" into next year.

At Disney, "Ransom," directed by Ron Howard and starring Mel Gibson, had originally turned up with a July 26 release date. Then it was moved to Nov. 8 because of production delays.

The Disney projects "That Darn Cat," "Shadow Conspiracy," "Gone Fishin', " "Jungle 2 Jungle" and "Grosse Pointe Blank" are planned for next year after surfacing at some point on 1996 schedules.

At one time, entertainment trade publications cited United Artists' "All the Pretty Horses" as a fall or Christmas release. Director-producer Mike Nichols acquired the film rights to the book, but it remains in development until Nichols finishes "Primary Colors" for Universal, a studio source says.

Universal's highly anticipated "Fierce Creatures," written by and starring John Cleese as a follow-up to the 1988 hit "A Fish Called Wanda," has suffered its share of snafus and delays and is now set for release Jan. 10.

One source close to the production says the mood during filming was the exact opposite of "Wanda," which was widely considered smooth and amicable. The new film uses the same cast--Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin--but sources say it was fraught early on with disputes between the cast and Cleese.

Although it wrapped, the production was poor and director Fred Schepisi was brought in during August and reshot 52 pages--about half the script, according to sources. The reshoots took five weeks; the original, budgeted for 12, ran 16 weeks.

Schepisi, whose next picture, "Don Quixote," is with Cleese, apparently worked wonders. Sources say he reversed the mood and turned in footage that has those who've seen it lauding it as a worthy follow-up to the original.

"We never announced an earlier date," says Nikki Rocco, head of Universal distribution. "We may have discussed other possible periods internally, but there was never a date set other than this one."

Still, dates often leak out to theater chains and the entertainment trade press before they are final, causing some confusion and embarrassment for the studios when questioned about changes.

Paramount's "The Relic," which some expected to see Aug. 23, has moved to Jan. 17. Although the film has no big stars (Tom Sizemore, Linda Hunt and Penelope Ann Miller head the cast), this " 'Alien' set in a museum" reportedly cost more than $50 million.

"Any early list showing a firm date is wrong," says Barry London, vice chairman of the studio's motion picture group. "We thought about mid-August but looked at the Olympics and felt the movie had a better chance on Jan. 17. This kind of movie needs time to breathe."

The studio's " 'Til There Was You," meanwhile, moved from April 5 to fall and now is tagged only as "coming."

And after a couple of false starts, Warner Bros. has decided to release New Regency's Michael Cimino film "The Sunchaser" in three cities on Oct. 25, hoping for positive word of mouth despite critics' poor response at the Cannes Film Festival.

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