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Studios rush to fill ’09 schedule

Possible SAG strike hurries high-profile pics

An end to the writers strike would come just in time for Hollywood studios, who are bumping up against the deadline to get projects into production before a possible walkout by actors on June 30.

The majors can also get busy figuring out which projects to greenlight for a fall start, since there’s no room to spare in filling out the second half of the 2009 release slate. In addition they have to largely map out their 2010 skeds.

The majors had always planned to accelerate their production schedules in case of a SAG strike. No one, however, had planned on such a long WGA walkout, which has made script polishes and rewrites impossible.

Studios are keeping mum about what the end of the writers strike will mean for a handful of high-profile projects scuttled — at least temporarily — by the walkout, including Sony’s “Angels and Demons,” which needed script revisions, and Warner Bros.’ “Justice League.”

Sony reiterated this week that “Angels and Demons” is delayed pending the outcome of the strike. Others suggest it could go into production this summer if all goes well. That’s also true for DreamWorks and Paramount’s “Transformers 2.” Both films are still set for release in 2009: “Angels and Demons” on May 15, “Transformers 2” on June 26.

At MGM, three pics — “Thomas Crown Affair 2,” “Death Wish” and “Fame” — are on hold pending the resolution of the strike because of script issues.

Universal delayed Ridley Scott’s “Nottingham,” toplining Russell Crowe, because of the strike but still intends to make the movie in time for a 2009 release. Crowe became available to star in U’s “State of Play” after Brad Pitt dropped out; that movie is lensing.

Some studios have been busier than others on productions to finish before a possible SAG strike. Twentieth Century Fox has been especially prolific, while Disney and Universal are about to be. Sony has been busy, too.

Warner Bros., on the other hand, is noticeably quiet on this front, in part because most of its movies slated for release through this year, as well as into next, are completed or are in post-production. Warners has only one movie dated so far for 2009, Zack Snyder’s “Watchmen,” set for release, on March 6.

The other majors have at least one summer 2009 tentpole dated, although it is still early.

Warners has a number of movies it will release through various output deals, as well as several undated, yet completed projects, including family entry “Where the Wild Things Are.” Once the WGA strike ends, one possible 2009 Warners tentpole is McG’s “Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins,” toplining Christian Bale.

There’s also speculation that Warner Bros. could begin distributing films for sister company New Line, which Time Warner topper Jeff Bewkes wants pared down.

When the strike started more than three months ago, no one could have anticipated how a protracted walkout might change the film business. Now, one studio exec suggests that one consequence may be a slowdown in the number of movies being made, even on the busier lots, such as Paramount and Warners. (Disney and Universal already had cut back.)

“I think everybody is anxious to get some scripts worked on right now. On the other hand, I think we are going to make fewer movies, because the competition when it comes to dating is impossible right now. It’s brutal. I don’t think you’re going to see us all rev back up to the same level of business,” one studio exec said.

Yet even the exec concedes he’s just talking about one or two fewer.

While the strike hit the television business more immediately, it could take months to determine the exact damage, if any, done to the film industry, since the cycle of moviemaking is so much longer.

Whatever the case, the next three months is a production free-for-all. Here’s the status of studio projects that have already begun shooting or are about to go into the production and are scheduled to complete production before a possible SAG strike could interfere. This list doesn’t include films that are largely wrapped or are in post, nor does it include animated movies, of which there are plenty in 2009.

DISNEY

“Confessions of a Shopaholic” — filming

“A Christmas Carol” — next week (Jim Carrey; 11/6/09 release)

“Bedtime Stories” — February (Adam Sandler; 12/25/08 release)

“Witch Mountain” — late March (Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson)

“The Proposal” — late March (Ryan Reynolds-Sandra Bullock; 2/13/09 release)

“When in Rome” — mid-April

“Hannah Montana Movie” — mid-April

“High School Musical: Senior Year” — mid-April

“Surrogates” — late April (Bruce Willis)

“Prince of Persia” — late July (7/10/09 release)

DREAMWORKS

“The Lovely Bones” — Peter Jackson directing (3/13/09 release)

“The Soloist” — filming

“I Love You Man” — March (1/16/09 release)

“She’s Out of My League” — March or April.

PARAMOUNT

“Star Trek” — J.J. Abrams directing (12/25/08 release)

“G.I. Joe” — mid-February (8/7/09 release)

“Shutter Island” — early March (Martin Scorsese directing, Leonardo DiCaprio-Michelle Williams)

SONY

“Year One” — filming (Jack Black-Michael Sera; 6/19/09 release)

“Seven Pounds” — March (Will Smith; 12/12/08 release)

“Julie & Julia” — March (Amy Adams-Meryl Streep)

“Taking of Pelham One Two Three” — March (Denzel Washington-John Travolta; 7/31/09 release)

FOX

“The Day the Earth Stood Still” — started shooting. (Keanu Reeves; 12/12/08 release)

“They Came From Upstairs” — started shooting (1/16/09 release)

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” — started shooting (Hugh Jackman; 5/1/09 release)

“Max Payne” — late February (Mark Wahlberg)

“Marley and Me” — March (Jennifer Aniston-Owen Wilson; 12/19/08 release)

“Bride Wars” — March.

“Night at the Museum 2: Escape From the Smithsonian” — May (Ben Stiller; 5/22/09 release)

UNIVERSAL

“Cirque de Freak” — Feb. 19

“Fast and Furious 4” — Feb. 20 (Paul Walker-Van Diesel; 6/5/09 release)

“The Wolfman” — early March (Benicio Del Toro; 2/13/09 release)

“Land of the Lost” — early March (Will Ferrell; 7/17/09 release)

“The Boat That Rocked” — March 3

“Duplicity” — March 10

“Public Enemies” — March 10 (Johnny Depp-Christian Bale-Marion Cotillard)

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