Back to future for ‘Time’

Delay may open road for 'Perdition'

“The Time Machine” has been pushed back to the future.

The effects-heavy sci-fier, a Warner Bros.-DreamWorks co-venture, is now skedded to open Feb. 8 instead of Christmas Day. Production cost for the Guy Pearce starrer based on H.G. Wells’ classic is said to be $70 million- $80 million.

Execs switched the release date on Sept. 10, a day before terrorist attacks on the East Coast prompted across-the-board reconsideration of all entertainment content.

In light of recent events, “The Time Machine” will be recut, DreamWorks confirmed, as it originally ended with pieces of the moon falling on New York City.

Shuffle is the first of what could be many in the packed holiday season. It also opens a coveted release slot and frees up DreamWorks resources for a possible limited bow of “The Road to Perdition” — Sam Mendes’ followup to “American Beauty” and a pic Oscar pundits are watching closely.

An early cut of the period gangster pic starring Tom Hanks, Jude Law and Paul Newman will be screened for some execs this week.

A Mendes-Hanks teaming would be a kudos heavyweight in any year, but this December it could also benefit from the element of surprise, as few holiday movie previews in print have even mentioned the possibility of “Perdition” opening. On the official docket, DreamWorks has coyly marked the release of “Perdition” for next spring.

Mark Christianson, a top distrib exec at DreamWorks, would say only that no decision has been made about “Perdition.” As for “Time Machine,” he offered a proactive view.

“Things are so crowded in the holiday period that we felt we’d have a better chance elsewhere,” he said. “This is a great movie that is going to do a lot of business, but we feel now that we have a better release slot.”

Box office in the winter span between Martin Luther King Day and Presidents Day has perked up in recent years, Christianson noted, with pics such as “Hannibal” and “Scream 3” opening to huge takes in early February.

DreamWorks is handling the domestic release of “Time Machine.” Warners will launch it overseas.

Pic may not have been as heavily touted as holiday releases “Harry Potter” or “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” but DreamWorks had tried to build interest among teen auds since summer. It brought promo materials, such as the massive time machine used in filming, to Comicon, a major comic book convention held each July in San Diego.

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