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Fox legislates ‘True’ reaction

Twentieth Century Fox’s Friday announcement of its summer release schedule put to rest speculation that the megabudget “True Lies” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger would not be ready for a Fourth of July weekend launch.

The James Cameron-directed comedy-adventure has been pushed back to July 15 and word in the industry is that the news will set off a chain reaction of shuffled playdates by the competition.

“In the next week, you’ll see a lot of rethinking and rescheduling,” promised a senior studio exec. “People have been maneuvering around that date not just because of theperceived draw of the picture but also because it’s probably the last weekend of the summer where you won’t have to go around begging to get screens.”

Fox’s five-pic seasonal slate will kick off with “Speed” on June 10. The Keanu Reeves actioner had earlier been skedded for a late summer/early fall unspooling.

It’s followed a week later with the youth comedy “Airheads” and John Hughes’s “Baby’s Day Out” slides into July 1 where “Lies” had been stationed. Following the Schwarzenegger film is the baseball comedy “The Scout” with Albert Brooks and Brendan Fraser on Aug. 3.

“The changes have worked out very well for us,” said Fox senior exec VP Tom Sherak. “The big surprise is ‘Speed,’ which we would never have put in the summer when ‘True Lies’ was set for July 1. Now it has a five-week lead-in, which will establish it very nicely in the marketplace.”

Sherak said the additional two weeks for “Lies” will take a littlebit of heat off of Cameron. However, he insisted that the filmmaker was ready to meet the original opening date had the studio pressed him. It was felt that the pic had commercial muscle regardless of where it landed on the sked.

Industry analysts agreed that a two-week bump three months ahead of release probably related in small measure to Cameron’s ability to deliver on time. Others were predicting that post-production on “Lies” may be so complicated that it will be pushed back even further in the year.

As to the expected jockeying, word at Universal is that the studio is now pushing to have “The Shadow” with Alec Baldwin move up two weeks to July 1. A studio source said it definitely will not stay in its present July 15 spot.

Columbia is said to be contemplating flipping dates on “North” and “Little Big League,” now set for July 8 and July 20, respectively. If that occurs, word is that Buena Vista won’t have its “Angels in the Outfield,” now set for July 8, go head to head with “League.”

Warner Bros. apparently is examining its July 22 bow on “The Client,” based on John Grisham’s best-selling novel. It would most likely move up rather than push back in closer proximity to the Aug. 12 launch of Paramount’s “Clear and Present Danger,” based on a Tom Clancy novel. The latter title, if ready, could jump to the early summer slot abdicated by “True Lies.”

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