Inside Moves

Col 'Ottoman Empire' falls

Did the flaccid performance of “What Planet Are You From?” turn Col off to another pricey sex comedy, even one that boasts Keanu Reeves as its star?

Just as the disappointing opening weekend grosses of “Planet” were being felt on the Columbia lot Monday, the studio surprisingly put into turnaround “Ottoman Empire,” the comedy that had Reeves set to star for director Andrew Bergman (“Isn’t She Great?”).

Reeves had agreed to play a furniture salesman with a hidden past as a sex film superhero, a secret that comes to the forefront when the nation’s first lady, fed up with her philandering husband, sets out to bed the former stud. Reeves’ commitment to do the film before back-to-back “Matrix” sequels suddenly made it a hot project.

Sources said that Columbia decided to back off because execs felt the budget was too high at just north of $50 million. No one was saying if there was a link between the timing and the failure of “Planet,” a pic about an impotent alien, which didn’t at all rise to the occasion considering a pricetag placed at $50 million.

“Planet,” which grossed just $3 million for its three-night stand, will probably make studios across town scrutinize comedy costs, particularly on movies that don’t topline Jim Carrey or Adam Sandler. Columbia, which found “Planet” to be a marketing nightmare because the best sex jokes couldn’t be used in TV spots, would have faced the same dilemma with “Ottoman.”

According to sources, Reeves was preparing to depart and choose another project to fill that slot.

— Michael Fleming

U laffer avoids summer ‘doy’ days

Universal Pictures has moved its comedy “Screwed” three months forward to May 12 from Aug. 25.

“Screwed,” which involves a chauffeur kidnapping a dog, may be able to take advantage of the lack of rival comedies during the early summer. The project, starring Norm Macdonald, Dave Chappelle and Danny DeVito, has previously been called “Ballbusted,” “Pittsburgh” and “Foolproof.”

Universal has also moved romantic comedy “Head Over Heels,” with Monica Potter and Freddie Prinze Jr., from the early summer to August. Both “Screwed” and “Heels” are produced by Robert Simonds.

— Dave McNary

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