With just six weeks before its scheduled release, Paramount Pictures has shelved Martin Scorsese’s highly anticipated psychological thriller “Shutter Island,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, until next year, saying it simply doesn’t have the money to market the movie.
The move means that the film won’t be in Oscar contention for this year. It had been set for an Oct. 3 release and will now pop onto screens Feb. 19.
“Our 2009 slate was green lit in a very different economic climate and as a result we must remain flexible and willing to recalibrate and adapt to a challenging environment,” Paramount Chairman and Chief Executive Brad Grey said in a statement. He added that “this is a situation facing every studio as we all work through financial pressures associated with the broader downturn.”
Paramount, which is a unit of media giant Viacom Inc., has already spent heavily promoting its summer lineup of “Star Trek,” “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.” Although all three have been successful, the cost of prints and advertising, which for all three combined was at least $200 million, goes on the studio’s books now, whereas whatever profits there are won’t show up until much later.
The studio has two other big releases for later this year on which it will spend heavily in the hope they will garner Oscar consideration: “The Lovely Bones” and “Up in the Air.” Both of those movies also involve DreamWorks; Paramount is the only studio involved in “Shutter Island.”
The decision to move “Shutter Island,” which is adapted from Dennis Lehane’s best-selling novel about two investigators who probe the escape of a female mental patient and get trapped on the island that houses the institution, could have the unintended effect of putting a cloud over the film. Trailers have already been playing all over the country.
To be sure, though, many films change release dates without suffering any apparent harm. Paramount’s “Star Trek” and Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” were each originally set to be released last year, and the delays did not send the wrong message to the public as both became huge hits.
Whether the switch will have a negative effect on Scorsese’s relationship with the studio, where he has a deal through June 2012, remains to be seen.
In his statement, Grey tried to smooth over any hurt feelings with DiCaprio and Scorsese, saying the former is “among the most talented actors working today” and the latter is one of the world’s “most significant filmmakers.” Paramount has also bought an ad in the Super Bowl to hype the release, a person close to the movie said.
Usually films that a studio thinks are Oscar contenders are released later in the year as opposed to earlier, although that is hardly an ironclad rule. DiCaprio’s “Inception” comes out in the summer of 2010, and that may have also factored into the February release date as well as the availability of the actor to promote “Shutter Island.”