Tuesday, 19 June 2012


Paramount Pictures is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.  From Titanic to Top Gun, they've shown an uncanny ability to produce Oscar-winners and crowd-pleasers in equal measure.  Vanity Fair’s recent photo shoot, which assembled a diverse roster of Hollywood heavyweights, reminds us of the talent, both on-screen and off, who have contributed to Paramount’s legacy.  But after a century of hit-making, the studio that gave us The Godfather, Indiana Jones and Star Trek, appears to be in serious trouble.

A series of costly production delays has reduced Paramount’s 2012 release schedule to a handful of anaemic winter berths, their once-formidable summer slate evaporating into thin air.  December boasts Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up spin-off, This Is 40, and Tom Cruise's latest actioner, Jack Reacher.  But neither possess the kind of box-office muscle generated by a tentpole like G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which was unceremoniously bumped from this June to March 2013.  The studio claims the last-minute move is to accommodate a 3D upgrade.  But with the ad campaign in full swing and toys already hitting store shelves, can a stereoscopic post-conversion really offset the cost of the delay?  Rumours abound that the production is actually taking the next nine months to rejig the entire movie, shooting new scenes with Channing Tatum, now a hot commodity in the wake of  back-to-back hits, The Vow and 21 Jump Street.  Insider chatter also places novice director Jon M. Chu on the outside looking in, even though the trailers suggests he’s a filmmaker with substantial action chops.

WWZ production art

World War Z, starring Brad Pitt, has also been postponed until next year.  Which is a shame considering the extent to which zombies have captured the zeitgeist.  This big-screen adaptation of Max Brooks' post-apocalyptic novel already went through a series of lengthy rewrites before cameras even rolled.  Now, production has halted as Prometheus scribe Damon Lindelof tries to salvage the troubled ending.  Blame is being foisted on Marc Forster, a director who’s known for intimate drama rather than epic action, but it sounds more like the studio simply rushed WWZ into production without an effective battle plan. 


Script problems have also plagued the latest incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  This may come as relief to fans though, who revolted when producer Michael Bay announced the movie would reinvent the character's beloved origins.  Then there’s Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters, starring Jeremy Renner, which will probably be the only film of the bunch to actually benefit from being delayed.  The Avengers star has experienced a meteoric rise since appearing in this summer’s biggest movie, and shows no sign of fading now that he’s taken over Matt Damon's Bourne franchise.  

All of these schedule-shuffles and false-starts are symptomatic of an industry trend that has release dates locked down and productions ramped up before scripts are even finished.  But at Paramount the habit has become chronic.  The consequences are dire, as they bleed millions trying to get these projects back on track.  So much so, that after a century of entertaining the masses, their days may be numbered.  2012 could be the year that levels The Mountain, unless these delays do the trick, turning train-wrecks into blockbusters. 

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