Add “Escape From Planet Earth” to Weinstein Co.'s growing list of headaches.
The computer-animated 3-D stereoscopic movie, which was announced in 2006, has been beset with script problems and won’t be ready for release until January 2011 at the earliest. A story about aliens plotting to escape from Area 51, the secret Nevada location famous for non-Earthling tourists, “Escape” was previously targeted for a 2010 release.
Though the studio has had some recent critical success with “The Reader,” for which Kate Winslet took home an Oscar for best actress, the company’s annual output has been minimal. “Escape From Planet Earth” is the latest Weinstein film to be delayed for various reasons.
Other Weinstein Co. films that have had their release dates put off over the last 18 months include “All Good Things,” “Youth in Revolt,” “The Road,” “Shanghai” and “Piranha 3-D.”
Last month the studio, headed by brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein, retained financial consulting firm Miller Buckfire & Co. to restructure its debt and raise funds.
In the case of “Escape From Planet Earth,” the problems are creative. Production, which is not expected to resume until August or early fall, was halted because of script issues, several people involved in the production said. The film is being written by Tony Leech and Cory Edwards, the team behind “Hoodwinked!,” Weinstein Co.'s ’06 hit release that took in $110 million worldwide. Leech is also directing the movie.
But Leech has not been satisfied with his script and has worked through several rewrites. Most of the movie’s 150 animators were sent packing at the Vancouver production facility until the creative issues could be resolved.
The delays are taking a financial toll on Rainmaker Entertainment Inc., the Canadian animation company behind “Escape From Planet Earth.” One of the largest producers of CG animation, Rainmaker attributed its 31% decline in animation revenue in the first quarter of this year to the production delays on the movie.
“The production schedule is being sorted out,” said Warren Franklin, Rainmaker’s chief executive, in an interview. He said the delays owing to the reworked story were “very normal for an animated film” and that the film was “gearing up” for a 2011 release during the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.
Although the film is behind schedule and actors have not been cast to provide voices, several people involved in the production contend that the delays will not inflate the cost of the movie. Weinstein Co., according to two people close to the production, has invested close to $20 million in “Escape From Planet Earth” and is not expected to dig deeper into its wallet to finish the project. The studio declined to discuss specific details about the financing of the film.
In a statement, Tom Ortenberg, president of theatrical films for Weinstein Co., said the movie was on budget and added that “to have had an independent, animated feature like ‘Escape From Planet Earth’ ready for a 2010 release was very ambitious.”