New Line postpones ‘Inkheart’ release

'Sarah Marshall' moves to late April

New Line is pushing back the release of Brendan Fraser family fantasy “Inkheart” from this year to January 2009, in part because the studio believed it couldn’t adequately market the pic in light of the hit television is taking from the writers strike.

And in a major tweak to its sked, Universal is moving up the release of Judd Apatow-produced laffer “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” from the crowded May 30 frame to April 18. In its old date, “Sarah Marshall” would have competed with 20th Century Fox’s Eddie Murphy family comedy “Starship Dave” and New Line’s “Sex and the City.”

“Inkheart,” which is completed, was set to open March 18. Because of the marketing worries, New Line thought about moving the film to fall. But that posed another problem.

Fraser is appearing in two films this summer, one of them New Line’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D,” which opens July 11. On Aug. 1, Universal bows “Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.”

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In terms of the marketing worries, New Line said it was concerned that the loss of first-run shows would minimize the impact of television spots. It’s the first time that a studio publicly expressed such a concern since the strike started.

Studios lost a valuable publicity tool when the latenight shows went off the air, but those shows are now back.

“Inkheart,” based on the young-adult book trilogy by Cornelia Funke, revolves around the father of a girl who brings characters to life when he reads, causing all sorts of trouble.

New Line’s recent family fantasy “The Golden Compass” disappointed at the domestic box office, grossing $67.7 million to date. It’s a hit overseas, however, grossing $245.7 million to date.

New Line also is pushing back the release of Edward Norton-Colin Farrell cop drama “Pride and Glory” from March 14 to next year.

New Line said both Norton and Farrell have other projects coming up, just like Fraser. Norton toplines Universal and Marvel’s summer tenptole “The Incredible Hulk,” while Farrell’s in theaters this weekend with Woody Allen’s “Cassandra’s Dream” and Feb. 9 with “In Bruges.”

Even with the rearranging, New Line has nine releases in 2008.

In regard to “Sarah Marshall,” Universal distribution topper Nikki Rocco said it made sense to get a jump on the summer and relocate male-skewing “Sarah Marshall” to late April. Pic stars Jason Segal, Jonah Hill and Kristen Bell.

As a result of the move, U had to do some other shuffling and back the release of female-skewing comedy “Baby Mama” from April 18 to April 25. Pic stars Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sigourney Weaver and Greg Kinnear. That gives U two comedies on back-to-back weekends, although appealing to different demos.

The industry is watching the weekend of June 20 closely, when Paramount’s Mike Myers comedy “The Love Guru” is skedded to go up against Warner Bros.’ Steve Carell-Anne Hathaway starrer “Get Smart.” Bets are that one of the titles will relocate.