Why 'Gatsby' Got Bumped

2012-28 REP The Great Gatsby H

"The Great Gatsby" could have been a 2012 awards contender.

Suddenly, next summer. 2013 is the new 2012 as the Warners movie is the latest moving target.

In Hollywood's not-too-distant past, it was rare for a studio to push back the release of a big-budget event movie for fear of creating the perception that something was horribly wrong. But a sea change has occurred as studios become increasingly unafraid to pull the trigger on major date shifts. A slew of 2012 titles have been relocated to 2013, including Baz Luhrmann's 3D epic The Great Gatsby, which Warner Bros., in a decision Aug. 6, pushed from Dec. 25, 2012, to summer 2013. Other Warners titles bumped to next year include Jack the Giant Killer and Gravity, while Paramount pushed back G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Hansel and Gretel and Brad Pitt's World War Z to 2013. Universal's Keanu Reeves samurai movie 47 Ronin also will open in 2013 instead of 2012.

"People aren't quite so precious anymore about keeping to a date," says one studio executive. Some say the fears dissipated a few years ago, when Paramount moved at the eleventh hour Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island from Oct. 2, 2009, to Feb. 19, 2010. By doing so, the studio avoided having to take a big marketing write-down in that quarter. The film weathered a momentary outcry but became Scorsese's biggest hit, grossing nearly $300 million worldwide.

Warners says Gatsby -- which, as in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, takes place on Long Island in summertime and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire -- is an all-audience film perfectly suited for the warm-weather season. "It is definitely a summer movie, and we are going to find a place for it," says the studio's president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman. Also, Luhrmann is notorious for needing time to massage; his Moulin Rouge was delayed by nearly six months for postproduction work. In this case, he'll have more time to pursue an ambitious musical score that could include Prince and Jay-Z, according to sources.

Still, there's no escaping the PR hit that comes with a high-profile delay, not to mention the financial hit if the marketing campaign already has begun (it hadn't for Gatsby but had for Retaliation). "It's a major move. There's no two ways about it," notes a rival studio veteran. "It's a big film with a big cast that was positioned as an awards contender." Warners insiders say the new date doesn't dim Gatsby's 2013 chances, and moving it also avoids a DiCaprio showdown Dec. 25, when his Django Unchained opens. Says another studio exec, "The marketplace is so unforgiving, you can't take the risk anymore and stick to a certain date when moving would be better.