‘Monsters’ moves to avoid ‘Avatar’

DreamWorks cartoon now an Easter release

Looking to avoid a showdown with James Cameron’s 3-D actioner “Avatar” in May 2009, DreamWorks Animation has decided to relocate 3-D toon “Monsters vs. Aliens” to March 27, 2009 and make it an Easter release.

It marks the first time in the company’s history that it has unspooled a tentpole in the spring, instead of summer.

DreamWorks Animation topper Jeffrey Katzenberg, who announced the date change at the Goldman Sachs media confab in Gotham, said it ultimately made no sense to have two 3-D projects battling it out, considering there will still be only a limited number of screens able to exhibit 3-D.

DWA claimed the date of May 22, 2009 last November, but plans got muddied in February when 20th Century Fox moved in and selected the same date for “Avatar,” Cameron’s first feature since “Titanic.”

Over the summer, DWA said it was moving up the release date of “Monsters” by one week to May 15, thereby avoiding a head-on collision with “Avatar.” Paramount Pictures distributes all DWA titles.

Katzenberg told Daily Variety on Wednesday that, upon further discussions with domestic and international exhibs, among others, DWA decided to move the toon out of May completely.

“Everyone has been concerned. These movies really were going to divide the marketplace,” Katzenberg said. “The issue wasn’t the content of ‘Avatar.'”

“Monsters” will now look to take advantage of the Easter holiday, which falls on April 12.

DWA hopes to mimic the success Fox enjoyed when bowing toon “Ice Age” and, more specifically, sequel “Ice Age: The Meltdown” around Easter.

What “Monsters” could lose is the weekday biz enjoyed by pics released in the summer, although the Easter frame has a certain amount of weekday traffic.

“In 2009, summer begins on March 29,” Katzenberg quipped.

Exhibitors estimate that by 2009, there could be between 6,000 and 8,000 screens equipped to handle 3-D. However, most of those screens will be in larger markets.

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