TriStar skeds ‘Seattle’ for June

TriStar Pictures confirmed yesterday that it has moved director Nora Ephron’s “Sleepless in Seattle” from a planned March 26 release to June 25, placing the romantic comedy in competition with such summer behemoths as “Jurassic Park, “”The Firm,””Cliffhanger” and “The Last Action Hero.”

TriStar’s decision to push “Sleepless in Seattle” into the summer follows two recent test screenings of the movie. The pic reportedly delivered an overall test score of 94 (out of 100) in at least one of those two screenings, spurring the studio to move the movie into the summer fray.

Prepping the movie for the marketplace, TriStar has turned its attention toward positioning “Sleepless” as an alternative to big-budget fare–a path forged by such successful summer predecessors as “When Harry Met Sal-ly…, “”Ghost” and “Sister Act.”

Studio distribution president Bill Soady said, “There always seems to be room for an adult comedy, when slotted properly, against the high-concept action movies traditionally targeted for summer release.”

In an early bid to build awareness, TriStar has already purchased pricey commercial spots during this week’s telecast of President-elect Bill Clinton’s inauguration. In addition, thestudio is in discussions with greeting card companies, teleflorists and jeweler Tiffany & Co. for corporate tie-ins.

TriStar marketing topper Kathy Jones said the studio “will step up to the plate” with a marketing campaign commensurate with the season. Hollywood marketing experts said it was too early to set a figure on the P&A budget for “Sleepless,” but TriStar will clearly put significantly more marketing dollars behind the picture in the summer slot.

“Sleepless in Seattle” producer Gary Foster said, “We are thrilled that TriStar is willing to go out at the biggest time of the year against the biggest films. They are going to have to spend, and they know it, and they’re willing to do it.”

Marketer Jones said the challenge will be to avoid over-hyping what is essentially a “lovely, romantic movie.”

Studio chairman Mike Medavoy said “Sleepless,” which stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, has “turned out to be one of those magical things that happens when you make movies–everything fell together.”

Medavoy said the pic joins TriStar’s Memorial Day release “Cliffhanger,” the Mike Myers starrer “So I Married an Ax Murderer” and the pickup “Weekend at Bernie’s 2” to give TriStar “a very good release schedule” for the summer months.

The decision to delay “Sleepless” is a sharp contrast to TriStar’s long-held philosophy that movies with playability will deliver solid results regardless of the release date.

Last year, TriStar affirmed that a spring opener could deliver blockbuster results with the March 20 opening of “Basic Instinct,” which went on to gross $ 117.5 million. But it also had just one release in the summer, when roughly 40% of all domestic box office receipts were tallied.

“Sleepless” carries another kicker for TriStar, since it is the first picture directly attributable to the company’s new production team. Last February, TriStar brought in studio president Marc Platt and president of production Stacey Lassally to put product in the pipeline; “Sleepless” was the first movie set into production with the new team aboard.

In taking the June 25 slot, “Sleepless” is slated to go head-to-head against director Steven Spielberg’s big-budget “Jurassic Park.” Universal distribution president Fred Mound said “Jurassic Park” will hit its targeted June 25 opening.

TriStar publicity topper Ed Russell said “Sleepless” will have an intense test-screening schedule, designed to expose “Sleepless” to select media and an army of word-of-mouth promoters.

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