First thing first. It didn't send a great message late Tuesday when Warner Bros. unexpectedly said it was moving "Jupiter Ascending," the Wachoswkis' return to live-action summer filmmaking, out of, well, the summer. The Channing Tatum-Mila Kunis sci-fi pic wouldn't just be a holiday release, either, instead traveling all the way from July 18 to the slower, lower-pressure February 2015.
Warners executive Dan Fellman told my colleague Amy Kaufman that it was technical effects work, not any larger creative rejiggering or marketing rethink, that was prompting the delay.
Whether that's a primary or sole factor is hard to say (certainly the reaction to early material hasn't been great). But for all the initial signals it sent, the move may not turn out to be that bad. That's not because the film is officially out of a more crowded time (that rationale has always seemed a little weak to me, since yes, there's more competition in the summer, but more people are going to movies) but because the general idea of taking an extra beat to release a film, whatever the reason, has actually worked out pretty well in recent years.
It used to be that the very act of delaying a film, particularly out of a high-traffic time, was correlated with failure — either because it in fact reflected a bad movie or because the perception alone would make theater owners and moviegoers suspicious, in turn torpedoing the film's chances.
But the gambit has worked a large number of times in recent years. Fellman cited "World War Z" and "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" last year. You can also toss into that mix "Shutter Island," which moved out of the 2009 fall and into February 2010; "Monuments Men," which left the 2013 holidays for this past February; and a year ago, "The Great Gatsby" (also from Warners), which decamped Christmas for May. All these movies turned out to be at least modest hits.
Even an awards film, "Foxcatcher," moved an entire year, from last fall to the upcoming one. And judging by the reaction at the Cannes Film Festival last month, it will be no worse for the wear.
This is all something of a paradox, since moviegoers are a lot more attuned to release dates than they used to be, which you'd think would make a delay more toxic. But filmgoers also seem to be more forgiving, or at least more forgetful, when a film does move. And in an era when effects, Wall Street and all sorts of other pressures can force an earlier release date in the first place, the added time seems to help the film itself.
That's not to say "Jupiter Ascending" will mark a great comeback for the Wachowskis, who have had a series of disappointments in recent years. But at least as far as timing goes, history is on their side.