Relativity Moves Up Snow White Film to March to Beat Universal

The film was originally set for a June 29, 2012 release before Universal's "Snow White and the Huntsman" was moved up to June 1; Relativity lobs its own shot by dating two other movies on weekends already occupied by Universal

Who’s the fairest of them all? Perhaps the one who’s first.

The battle over dueling Snow White films took another dramatic turn Tuesday as Relativity fired back at Universal by moving up the release of its untitled Brothers Grimm: Snow White movie from June 29, 2012, to March 16, 2012 — ahead of Universal’s Snow White and the Huntsman.

A week ago, Universal caught Relativity off-guard when it announced it would open Huntsman on June 1, 2012, instead of December 2012.

At this point, it’s unclear whether Universal has the leeway to push up the release of its film again. As of now, director Rupert Sanders isn’t scheduled to start shooting Huntsman, produced by Alice in Wonderland’s Joe Roth, until August.

Director Tarsem Singh is set to start production on Relativity’s Snow White tale next month.

The tug-of-war between the companies has surprised many in Hollywood, considering Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity has co-financed a slew of Universal titles.

It also reflects the shift in Relativity’s interests since Kavanaugh launched his own domestic distribution operation. Snow White — starring Julia Roberts, Lily Collins and Armie Hammer — is one of Relativity’s highest-profile projects.

Relativity leaves behind one of the most lucrative frames of the year in vacating the June 29 date, since it falls just before the Fourth of July holiday. But opening on the heels of Huntsman could pose difficulties.

The March-April corridor can be a lucrative stretch at the box office because of spring break and the Easter holiday, particularly for family-friendly fare like Relativity’s Snow White. But the Relativity movie will have plenty of competition; for example, Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games opens March 23.

There will now be 10 weeks separating the Snow White films. Whether that’s enough to keep interest going in both titles remains to be seen.

Not that the films will necessarily appeal to the same audience. Snow White and the Huntsman, staring Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth, isn’t a classic retelling of the fairy tale. In Huntsman, Snow White is trained to be a fierce warrior in order to overcome the evil queen.

Lobbing its own shot at Universal, Relativity also announced Tuesday that it will open Safe Haven, based on the Nicholas Sparks novel, on June 1, 2012 — the same date as Huntsman. Both films will compete for women.

And Relativity’s Hunter Killer, from director Phillip Noyce, will roll out in theaters on Dec. 21, 2012, the same weekend that Universal’s untitled Judd Apatow movie debuts.