Distribs rethink release dates

Olympics, soccer forcing adjustments

After last year’s World Cup soccer tourney forced film execs to rethink their release strategy, sports will again affect next year’s summer schedule.

The 2008 Olympics in China and UEFA’s European Soccer Championships will force distribs to think hard about how and when they release certain pics, according to WB’s international distribution prexy, Veronika Kwan-Rubinek.

Speaking to Daily Variety Wednesday at exhib confab Cinema Expo in Amsterdam, Kwan-Rubinek said spy spoof ” ‘Get Smart’ is interesting because the domestic release date is June 20, and that falls right in the middle of the (European soccer championship), so we wouldn’t want to go day and date on that movie.”

The Beijing Olympics has had an effect on the skeds, but less than expected. “We are trying to avoid the Olympics in the Asian markets, but it won’t really affect us in the rest of the world,” Kwan-Rubinek said.

The Games will screen in the morning in European time zones, so the effect on B.O. figures to be minimal.

Contrary to Amsterdam’s racy rep, the RAI Center was stuffed with wholesome family fare for day three of Cinema Expo.

Warner Bros. beat the drum for a slate headed by “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and “Beowulf,” while Disney built buzz for “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” and “Enchanted.”

WB’s aggressive event-movie strategy was apparent during its presentation, which was introduced by Kwan-Rubinek and international marketing prexy Sue Kroll.

Warners offered a sneak peek of slate heavyweight “Potter.” The pic screens in full today at the RAI Center, and the Imax 3-D version will also be shown. The franchise has taken $3.5 billion worldwide so far, with 70% of that coming from overseas markets, Kroll reported.

The Expo aud was treated to a world exclusive of 15 minutes of unedited “Beowulf.” The clip from the Robert Zemeckis pic, which will be released in November, closed tantalizingly with the titular warrior, played by Ray Winstone, preparing to do battle with the demon temptress, played by Angelina Jolie.

WB also unspooled scenes from Brad Pitt starrer “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” due for a November release, and sneaks from Will Smith starrer “I Am Legend,” about the lone survivor of a virus. Pic will be released over Christmas.

WB’s tentpoles for summer 2008 in Europe include the Wachowski brothers’ high-octane car actioner “Speed Racer” and Christopher Nolan’s next “Batman” installment.

Producer Joel Silver delivered a taped message promising “Speed Racer,” based on a Japanese anime series, would be a “big summer event movie for the whole family,” while auds got a look at Batman’s new souped-up motorbike and the batsuit Christian Bale will sport in “The Dark Knight.”

“Get Smart” topliner Steve Carell warmed up the audience with a humorous taped message pleadingly asking the Euro aud, “You don’t really hate us (Americans), do you? I don’t know why? … I do. Sorry!” Pic hits theaters summer 2008.

Kwan-Rubinek played up the rising importance of local productions at the international box office, noting that local pics reeled in $260 million for WB in 2006, double the 2005 take. The haul repped 20% of WB’s international take last year.

The lion’s share of Disney’s evening presentation was devoted to “Enchanted,” the story of a princess (Amy Adams) from a classic Disney toon catapulted by an evil queen into modern-day New York.

Mark Zoradi, prexy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture marketing and distribution, said the pic, which combines classic 2-D animation and live action, “goes straight to the Disney sweet spot. … It is almost a ‘Mary Poppins’ for today’s generation.”

To cement the link with Disney’s golden age, Julie Andrews will narrate the English-language versions.

Helmer Kevin Lima — who also voices a cheeky chipmunk in his pic — spoke of his “love for the heritage” of the studio. But the pic also displays a humorous and affectionate irreverence for the Disney tradition.

“The comedy is based on how Disney characters would fit in the real world,” Lima said. This appeared to play well with the European exhibitors at Cinema Expo.

At its core, the pic is a romantic comedy, Lima said, which would increase its appeal in international markets.

Also given a big push was “The Chronicles of Narnia” sequel. Helmer Andrew Adamson delivered a taped message saying that, unlike the original, “Prince Caspian” will feature “battles all the way through.”

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