Industry reacts to delay of Paramount film

When Paramount made the decision last week to push “The Soloist” to March, DreamWorks, Working Title and CAA , which reps director Joe Wright, Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, were not pleased.

Under pressure from parent company Viacom to cut fourth-quarter costs, Par decided just a month ahead of the release to pull the awards-season plug on “The Soloist,” moving the Foxx-Downey starrer from Nov. 21 to March 13.

“We were blindsided,” said one CAA agent.

Hollywood insiders are speculating that “The Soloist” — a drama about an L.A. Times columnist and a homeless violinist — was being punished for being a DreamWorks movie in the wake of the company’s unpleasant divorce with Paramount.

Vantage’s own “Defiance,” a Holocaust drama from helmer Ed Zwick starring Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber, while also pushed out of wide 2008 release for Dec. 12, is still getting a year-end qualifying run and a Jan. 16 wide opening.

Paramount marketing execs figure “The Soloist” is an accessibly commercial picture that will have a better shot all around in March. “Ultimately,” said DreamWorks spokesman Chip Sullivan, “the movie will win out of this.”

The studio still expects the film to play well opening night at the AFI Film festival Oct. 30, along with closing night film “Defiance.” It is unusual for films to screen at AFI that far in advance of their theatrical release.

“Soloist” trailers had been placed in front of “Eagle Eye.” As of Friday, Par had not decided how to proceed with further ad placements or guild screening schedules.

TV spots booked for “The Soloist” will be rolled over to other films such as David Fincher’s “The Curious Life of Benjamin Button,” starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; and Sam Mendes’ “Revolutionary Road,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

The economic downturn was clearly another factor in Par’s decision. These moves will save the studio some $60 million-$70 million in prints and advertising costs in the fourth quarter before the fiscal calendar ends Dec. 31.

While Downey’s PR rep, Rogers & Cowan, said the star was supporting the movie and had participated in two upcoming magazine cover stories, the actor is shooting “Sherlock” in London and would not be available to do the full award season rounds of guild screenings and parties. They will be canceled, but the studio will now back an Academy campaign for his supporting role in “Tropic Thunder.”

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