‘Wolf’ to howl in June

March may come in like a lion, but it won’t go out with a “Wolf,” Columbia Pictures said Monday, as the studio is betting its big-budget Jack Nicholson starrer can play big in the summer.

The studio abruptly rescheduled “Wolf” from a March 30 release to June 24 following a screening of director Mike Nichols’ working print to studio executives over the weekend. Produced by Doug Wick, the movie stars Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer and is often described as a new spin on the Wolfman legend.

“We feel confident this movie deserves theheart of the summer (release),” said Columbia Pictures president of distribution Jeff Blake, who confirmed the change in the release schedule. “We think we have a big commercial movie.”

The move bolsters Columbia’s summer slate and adds another entry to the summer movie logjam. On June 24, “Wolf” is skedded to open opposite Walt Disney Pictures’ animated entry “The Lion King,” 20th Century Fox’s “Airheads” and Paramount Pictures’ Melanie Griffith/Ed Harris starrer “Milk Money,” according to preliminary distribution plans.

“There’s no question, it is just going to be crowded out there,” said Exhibitor Relations Co. president John Krier. “(The move) means Columbia has a lot of faith in ‘Wolf,’ and chances are the summer release will mean another $ 20 million or $ 25 million on the grosses.”

For Colpix, “Wolf” will follow the June 10 release of Castle Rock Entertainment’s “City Slickers 2” and precede director Rob Reiner’s July 8 release “North.”

Insiders said Sony Pictures Entertainment motion picture companies chairman Mark Canton and Columbia corporate executive VP Sid Ganis both pushed for the three-month delay.

Historically, a move by an SPE company from the spring to the summer is a good sign. Last year, TriStar moved the then virtually unknown “Sleepless in Seattle” from spring to summer, leading to a domestic box office gross of $ 126. 5 million.

Columbia is readying a major marketing blitz to support “Wolf” in its new summer slot.

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