Sony bumps 'King's Men'

Hollywood is once again playing its favorite game  — release date shifting — with one top title removed from this year’s Oscar race and another big project marking its territory for next year.

Columbia Pictures’ “All the King’s Men” has been pushed from its Dec. 16 release date to an unknown date in 2006. Meanwhile, Universal has selected April 28 to release “Flight 93,” Paul Greengrass’ re-creation of what went on aboard one of the planes hijacked on Sept. 11.

Sony brass say the most likely scenario is for “King’s Men” to unspool a year from now, during next year’s Oscar season.

Written and directed by Steve Zaillian based on the novel by Robert Penn Warren, “All the King’s Men” stars Sean Penn as Willy Stark, the Louisiana governor inspired by Huey Long, and Jude Law as journalist Jack Burden. Cast also includes Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet, Patricia Clarkson and James Gandolfini.

Sony vice chair Jeff Blake said the film, which is in post-production, would have had to be rushed in order to meet the Dec. 16 date and that the studio decided it was wiser to wait.

No reshooting is scheduled.

“We had a little bit less time than we thought we had to finish it up,” said Mike Medavoy, chairman of Phoenix Pictures, which is producing the pic. “Amy (Pascal, head of Columbia) and her team really felt that, despite the fact that it’s going to cost more money to hold, it’s better for us to have the movie we’re happy with than to rush out the movie just to meet a release date.”

Blake said that at this point no trailers have been cut, and Zaillian has not yet heard the movie’s score.

He said that plans for an Academy platform rollout remains the same; a fall/winter 2006 release date is thus expected.

“All the King’s Men” was not Sony’s only hopeful for the Oscar race. Studio is also about to unspool “Memoirs of a Geisha,” a co-production with Spyglass and DreamWorks; equity partner Revolution has Joe Roth’s “Freedomland,” starring Julianne Moore and Samuel L. Jackson; and TriStar recently released “Oliver Twist,” directed by Roman Polanski.

U’s April date selection means “Flight 93″ will be in theaters four months before Oliver Stone’s untitled World Trade Center pic starring Nicolas Cage, which Paramount currently has skedded for Aug. 11. Both studios have been wary of releasing their terror films too close to next year’s fifth anniversary of the events as they do not want to appear to be exploiting the tragedy.

But by giving Sept. 11 a wide berth, it means both pics will now be released on the fringes of the summer season, when most fare in megaplexes tends to be frothy. In picking April 28, U said it plans to take “Flight 93″ out in wide release. The other titles presently skedded for wide release that frame include Sony’s Jennifer Garner romancer “Catch and Release” and Lions Gate’s spelling bee pic “Akeelah and the Bee,” starring Laurence Fishburne.

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