MGM quiets ‘Windtalkers’

Release moved to June 14

MGM has postponed the release of John Woo’s WWII pic, “Windtalkers.”

The fall tentpole stars Nicolas Cage as a Marine assigned to protect a Navajo American recruited to communicate military orders by secret code. Originally skedded for a Nov. 9 release, it will now open June 14, Flag Day.

“We feel certain this great film will be enjoyed by the broadest possible audience during the strong summer play period,” said MGM’s worldwide distribution and marketing prexy Robert Levin.

It’s the second time the pic has been bumped. It was previously skedded for this summer. A long sequence screened at ShoWest in March, and promo material has already been on display in theater lobbies.

Woo’s last pic, “Mission: Impossible 2” was the highest grossing pic of summer 2000, taking in $215 million, but Woo struggled with schedule and budget constraints. Though said to be on target for a November release, “Windtalkers” was still doing reshoots in September.

The unpredictable news cycles of the next few months were another likely concern for the studio. MGM’s lean release slate (now down to 12 from 13 pics for 2001), and its position as the only studio with no corporate parent, leaves it especially vulnerable to the performance of its tentpole pics.

And the violent nature of the pic, which features scenes of hand-to-hand combat in South Pacific warfare, might have turned off auds still rattled by the Sept. 11 attacks.

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