As a cloud of dust continued to stubbornly swirl around lower Manhattan, a similar haze of angst hung over Hollywood Wednesday.
Although still in a state of disbelief, studio marketing and distribution chiefs were forced to consider which pictures would need to be recut, reedited, or reskedded following the tragic events of Tuesday morning.
The concerns were over not only terrorism themes and New York backdrops, but also the ability to promote films when the TV nets are dominated by commercial-free news coverage.
Sony and Amblin announced they will change the ending of “Men in Black 2,” due for release on July 3, because the World Trade Center was to be involved in the climax.
While sources indicated that the ending had already been shot when footage was filmed in New York over the summer, the studio said that the scene hadn’t been done yet.
“There was a scene set against the background of the World Trade Center, and given yesterday’s tragedy, we are now in the process of looking at alternatives,” said a SPE spokesperson.
Studios are also reviewing other footage shot. If it contains scenes of the towers, Ammer said, that footage “would not be part of the movie.”
“MIB 2” had, like all Sony pictures on the studio’s Culver City lot, halted production Tuesday. Lensing resumed Wednesday.
At Sony’s Columbia Pictures, marketing execs pulled a teaser trailer for “Spider-Man,” which showed bank robbers getting caught by a spider web between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The trailer had appeared both in theaters and on the Internet. But, as the scene is not in the movie itself, the film will remain unchanged.
Col also pulled the one-sheet for “Spider-Man” because the now demolished Twin Towers are reflected in the eyes of Spider-Man’s mask.
“The decision was an easy one,” said Geoffrey Ammer, president of marketing for the Columbia TriStar marketing group. “It’s based on humanity. No cost of editing can outweigh the sensitivity of the issue.”
Sony pulled the trailer not only from its own Web site Tuesday but any links to the trailer across the Internet. It will also remove the trailer from hundreds of theaters. “Spider-Man” remains on track to open May 3.
DreamWorks also decided to pull a national advertising push for its upcoming prison drama, “The Last Castle.” The campaign features an American flag flown upside-down, a universally recognized sign of distress.
A spokeswoman said that DreamWorks will re-shape the film’s promotional campaign to one that centers on stars James Gandolfini and Robert Redford. Pic is slated for an Oct. 12 release.
Separately, the 120-screen George Theater Co., a southeastern exhibitor based in St. Simons Island, Ga., elected Wednesday to remove the “Castle” one-sheets from its 23 theaters.
Warner Bros. Pictures announced Wednesday that it would postpone the Oct. 5 release of its terrorism-themed thriller, “Collateral Damage,” citing “respect for the victims and their families.” A new date has not been skedded.
In a related move, distrib is moving “Training Day,” a rogue-cop drama starring Denzel Washington, to Oct. 5. Pic had been skedded to bow wide Sept. 21, but Warners distrib boss Dan Fellman said the recent events made it impossible to promote the film appropriately over the next several days.
“It wasn’t a problem with subject matter but rather the inavailability of media,” Fellman said.
The L.A. preem for “Training Day,” originally set for Sept. 19, is also expected to change. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the film made its world premiere at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival Sept. 7 to critical praise.
Warners is also bumping by one week some 500 sneak previews of its upcoming Anthony Hopkins starrer “Hearts in Atlantis.” Originally set for this weekend, the sneaks have been moved to the following frame.
The studio is pulling all “Collateral” marketing and advertising, including billboards, one-sheets and trailers from theaters. On the Warners Web site, a link that Tuesday took the viewer to a complete “Collateral” promotion now contains only a simple three-paragraph statement from the studio outlining its decision to postpone the film.
“Collateral” producer David Foster, who said he began developing the project more than six years ago after the explosion of a PanAm flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, called the film “provocative and realistic” but added, “Nerves are really raw right now. It’s been postponed out of respect for those people.”
Other producers expressed concern about upcoming fall releases if the U.S. retaliates in the next week by initiating military action against the perpetrators of Tuesday’s disaster.
In this scenario, producers fear TV stations will be co-opted to deliver blanket coverage making ad-buys impossible for upcoming releases.
“You can’t open a movie if you can’t buy commercials,” expressed one concerned veteran producer. “If that’s the case you are going to see a major shuffling of the fall release schedule.”
Paramount Classics’ “Sidewalks of New York,” which was slated to premiere Wednesday night in Gotham, is another release newly in flux. The release has been pushed back to an unspecified date in November.
Even vidgames were effected by the attacks: “Majestic,” the online game developed by Electronic Arts that envelops players in a corporate thriller, has been temporarily suspended.
The game’s interactive elements involved sending players phone calls, faxes, e-mails and instant messages at all hours of the day and night that reveal details of the game’s murder plot. Some of these contacts were meant to jolt the player with pre-recorded screams and emergencies.
“Some elements of that game may be objectionable to some people,” EA spokesman Jeff Brown said, particularly noting the phone calls — given the reports of survivors of the terrorist attacks making calls from their cell phones — as a particular concern.
The game is anticipated to renew late next week.
(Michael Fleming in New York and Carl DiOrio, Marc Graser, Ann Donahue and Cathy Dunkley in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)