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Universal Pictures postpones release of '47 Ronin' to February

April 26, 2012|By Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times
  • Keanu Reeves stars in the new film "47 Ronin."
Keanu Reeves stars in the new film "47 Ronin." (Peter Kramer, AP )

Thousands of theater owners and executives gathering in Las Vegas for the annual CinemaCon convention will see the first footage of Universal Pictures' "47 Ronin" on Thursday. But they won't get to showcase the big-budget Keanu Reeves action film in their cinemas this Thanksgiving as they had expected.

Universal on Wednesday pushed back the movie's planned release date of Nov. 21 to Feb. 8. The move was made because the remaining work on its extensive 3-D special effects would have made it difficult to hit the November date and impossible to assemble a compelling trailer ready to show this summer, when theaters are packed with audiences watching similar event movies, according to two knowledgeable people who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Originally budgeted at about $175 million, "47 Ronin" may see its cost increase as additional footage is shot and other changes are made, one of the people close to the production said. While rumors are swirling in Hollywood that the movie's budget has risen to more than $200 million, the person close to the production denied that.

In a year full of enormous risks for Universal, including its other high-cost films, "Battleship" and "Snow White and the Huntsman," "47 Ronin" has stood out as one of the studio's biggest gambles. Shot in 3-D by Carl Rinsch, an accomplished music video and commercial director who had never made a studio movie, it features an entirely Japanese cast surrounding Reeves, who has not starred in a blockbuster hit since the "Matrix" trilogy nearly a decade ago.

"47 Ronin" is a new version of a Japanese legend about a group of samurai who avenge the death of their master and then commit ritual suicide.

It was to be Universal's biggest release of the holiday season. Instead, the studio now will have no movies opening in theaters between "The Bourne Legacy" on Aug. 3 and "Les Miserables" on Dec. 14.

The only other picture scheduled to premiere against "Ronin" on Feb. 8 is Relativity Media's "Safe Haven," an adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel. The second weekend of February was a huge one for Hollywood this year, with the successful openings of "The Vow," "Safe House," "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" and the 3-D version of "Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace."

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