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Universal's 'Babe' Sequel Has Become a Pig in a Poke

Film: Studio cancels Sunday premiere because editing isn't finished. It expects movie to be ready for Thanksgiving holiday.

November 12, 1998|From Associated Press

"Babe: Pig in the City," one of the most important--and expensive--movies of the year for beleaguered Universal Studios, is taking longer to complete than expected, forcing the studio to cancel its star-studded benefit premiere and a weekend publicity event, the company said Wednesday.

The studio said the sequel to the popular porker film "Babe" will be ready in time for the critical Nov. 25 opening over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend. It also said the film should be available for reviewers a few days before the opening.

"It's due to the extraordinary amount of special effects in the film," Universal said in a prepared statement. "The editing process has taken longer than we had anticipated."

In the sequel, James Cromwell, returning as Farmer Hoggett, takes the sweet-hearted swine to the urban jungle. The film features wide use of computer-generated effects to make the barnyard animals appear to talk.

As the follow-up to the $63.6-million-grossing "Babe" of 1995, "Pig in the City" is one of Universal's key films this year, and the studio built an ambitious merchandising campaign around it. The movie also has the potential to do stellar business when it comes out on video.

But it has cost Universal plenty, by some reports more than $100 million, far more than the original. Universal also has a lot riding on "Meet Joe Black," which opens this weekend.

Because Universal doesn't have a final print yet of "Pig in the City," it took the unusual step of canceling Sunday's world premiere at Universal City to benefit the Children's Defense Fund, a leading nonprofit child advocacy group.

Universal is refunding the money to people who bought tickets and making a donation to the fund, the studio said.

Universal is badly in need of a hit. The studio has struggled this year with a slate of such disappointing films as "Primary Colors," "Out of Sight" and "BASEketball," placing Universal next to last among major studios in market share, ahead only of troubled MGM.

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