Iger: 'Caspian' release date a mistake

Disney CEO says bad timing hurt the 'Narnia' sequel

Disney CEO Robert Iger said Wednesday that "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" isn't performing as well as expected because its May 16 release date was too competitive.

It's an interesting thesis, considering Disney purposely moved the film to that date and, in doing so, turned the seemingly natural Christmas franchise -- the first installment featured a cameo from Santa Claus -- into a springtime experience.

Disney originally had "Caspian" set for the 2007 Christmas season but made the change in deference to "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep," a fantasy vying for the same audience.

Disney might also have been taking into account the feelings of Walden Media, its production partner on "Narnia" and the production company behind "Water Horse," which was distributed by Sony. That film earned $102.6 million worldwide at the boxoffice.

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" scored $744.8 million worldwide as a Christmas release in 2006.

Iger, speaking at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York, said "Prince Caspian" is a better movie than the first installment but because it was released between a couple of the year's biggest hits, audiences are overlooking it.

"Prince Caspian" was released May 16, less than two weeks after "Iron Man" and just six days before "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." It has grossed $151 million worldwide so far.

Iger lamented the "very delicate, very fragile marketplace" for movies in general, given that "there's just too much out there."

As of now, the next movie in the "Narnia" series is set for release May 7, 2010.