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by Jason F. Koenigsberg

So far dozens of movies have been postponed with new release dates because of the COVID19 Pandemic. Marvel’s Black Widow, the new James Bond adventure No Time to Die, Disney’s live action Mulan, DC’s Wonder Woman: 1984, and the latest Fast and Furious movie F9 are just some of the biggest titles to be shuffled because of movie theater closures across the world. Historically that is usually a bad sign when movies have their release dates pushed back. We saw this happen with films after 9/11. Most of the titles that were altered and delayed after the terrorist attacks were underwhelming at the box office and on the American consciousness. Does anyone today remember the Gwyneth Paltrow as a flight attendant movie View from the Top (2003)? Or the Arnold Schwarzenegger action vehicle Collateral Damage (2002)? I don’t think so. Even movies that had their release pushed back for reasons other than a major event or to avoid controversy do not fare well. Usually that is an even worse signal that the studio has no faith in that title which was the case for such films as Jupiter Ascending (2015) and Gangster Squad (2013). Do you remember those movies? I didn’t think so either. So with this unprecedented time where movie theaters are shut and nothing is coming out, surely some of the movies that have been delayed will end up being big hits, and some will likely be also rans. There are however several films that defied the odds of having their release date pushed back for various reasons and ended up becoming success stories. One movie which was pushed back almost six months ended up being the highest grossing film of all time for a span of twelve years. Perhaps some of the movies that have been delayed because of the coronavirus could be the next classic movie of the decade. So here are six movies that ended up being successful despite being delayed. 

Titanic (1997) directed by James Cameron

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The little movie that could, or the big movie that could. At the time of its release Titanic was the most expensive movie ever produced with a budget of $200 million. It was originally set for a July 1997 opening but a few months prior pushed its release date back to the holiday season, a prime time for prestige pictures. The reason cited for the delay was not to be an obvious awards contender, but because James Cameron stated that he needed more time to complete the films groundbreaking special effects. There was also the story that Harrison Ford was involved in having its release date postponed because Titanic was coming out too close to his summer action movie Air Force One also being released in July of 97. At the time Harrison Ford was one of the biggest stars and therefore one of the most powerful people in Hollywood. He allegedly also made the producers change the release dates for other would be blockbusters to be further away from being direct competition with his President fighting bad guys on a plane blockbuster. Those movies were Warner Bros. Conspiracy Theory with Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts which was pushed back to August 15, as well as the sci-fi flicks Alien: Resurrection and Starship Troopers which were both released in November. All three of those movies ended up underperforming in ticket sales but Air Force One was a huge hit with no major titles threatening its dominance. Titanic ended up making history and being the highest grossing film of all time until James Cameron broke his own record with his next film Avatar in 2009. Who knows how the history of cinema would be different if Titanic came out as originally planned during the summer. Would it have monopolized the #1 spot at the box office for months during the summer and fall of 1997 instead of late December and Spring of 1998? Would other movies have flopped and other movies been bigger hits? Would Titanic have dominated the Oscars in March of 1998? Would it still have been the biggest movie of all time for over a decade? We will never know but history certainly worked out for Titanic and everyone involved with its December 1997 release. 

 

Dr. Strangelove (1964) directed by Stanley Kubrick

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One of the most critically acclaimed and savage dark comedies of all time Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb faced a major dilemma right before its release. Stanley Kubrick’s satire about the Cold War was set to premiere in late November of 1963. In fact they had their first press screening on November 22, 1963. That is the same date that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The somber mood of the nation did not warrant the wide release of a film that made a comedy of the insane behind closed door politics of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Columbia Pictures decided to push back the release until January 1964. This ended up working out to the movies benefit as Dr. Strangelove was a critical and commercial success all year and the following spring earned Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director Stanley Kubrick, Best Actor Peter Sellers who played three different roles in the film, and Best Adapted Screenplay. A few minor changes were made to the film including a pie fight at the end where someone yells “the President is down!” after he gets hit in the face with a pie. It is probably for the best that alternate ending was scrapped in favor of the much darker one with the end of the world showing footage of mushroom clouds and the song “We’ll Meet Again” playing. Also, the line about having a “good weekend in Dallas” was changed to a “good weekend in Vegas” which actually makes more sense. To this day Dr. Strangelove remains a beloved classic. a timely political farce about the cretinism that controls world governments. 

 

Gangs of New York (2002) directed by Martin Scorsese

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DiCaprio’s second movie on this list. It seems through no fault of his own he has a knack for working with very talented directors on some of their most troubled productions. Gangs of New York is one of the very few films that could be considered a success story after its release date was pushed back an entire year in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Instead of a December 2001 release date Miramax did not want a violent depiction of New York City to be coming out while the nation was still grieving. The final shot of the film included the World Trade Center and the filmmakers opted to keep it in as it was prior to the terrorist attacks. This was a shrewd maneuver that made New York City look resilient and strong even though it was over a year after the twin towers had fallen when the general public finally saw the film. They first proposed a Spring 2002 release date with Gangs of New York coming out in March or April of 2002, but since this movie was made with the intention of being an awards season favorite and Miramax is always a major player come Oscar time, they wanted Gangs of New York and especially director Martin Scorsese to be heavy hitters in the awards circuit. So Gangs of New York was pushed back a full year to December of 2002. The result was a success… for the most part. Gangs of New York was the highest grossing film of Scorsese’s career up to that point earning over $100 million. It received ten Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Director, Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis, and Original Screenplay yet on Oscar night it went 0 for 10. It did help put Martin Scorsese, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Leonardo DiCaprio in the spotlight with some of their biggest hits of their careers still to come this century. Martin Scorsese would have to wait another four years to win the long awaited Best Director Academy Award for The Departed (2006) and he has racked up a string of hits and Best Director nominations since, most recently being nominated last year for The Irishman. Leonardo DiCaprio would have to wait another thirteen years to finally get his Oscar gold when he won Best Actor for The Revenant (2015), and Daniel Day-Lewis would win two more Best Actor Academy Awards for There Will Be Blood (2007) and Lincoln (2012). Those two along with his trophy for My Left Foot (1989) make Daniel Day-Lewis the only man to have three Best Actor Academy Awards. Gangs of New York may not have been the movie people wanted or expected but it was an undeniable success on pop culture by boosting the careers of its director and stars. 

 

Foxcatcher (2014) directed by Bennett Miller

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Bennet Miller’s Olympic wrestling drama was originally slated to come out in December of 2013. Three weeks before its planned release Foxcatcher was delayed an entire year. No real reason as to why it was pushed back but perhaps it was to build more awards hype for the film to brew and make it a major awards contender the following year. It had its premiere at Cannes in 2014 and received rave reviews especially for the performances of Steve Carell who really transformed himself, as well as Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum. The former two received Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nominations respectively and Bennett Miller received a Best Director nod despite the film not earning a Best Picture nomination. Overall Foxcatcher ended up being a success story based on a tragic American story. It was a modest hit at the box office and generated a lot of buzz for its actors leading to Steve Carell getting meatier and more dramatic roles as well as bigger and more prestigious parts for Tatum and Ruffalo. All three are still big stars today. 

 

Phone Booth (2003) directed by Joel Schumacher

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This is one of the more experimental films to be released from a major studio with an established director and big stars attached. Colin Farrell was still a relatively new star and this thriller meant to take place in real time dealt with an enemy in New York City that was not foreign terrorists but a sniper threatening a mans life if he hangs up and leaves the phone booth. Even in the early 2000’s phone booths were not very common and today this movie could never be made because of our reliance on cell phones. The movie even has a prologue scene that explains this is the “last phone booth in Manhattan”. So why did the studio decide to delay the release of Phone Booth from the fall of 2002 to April 2003? Because in the weeks leading up to its release there was a real sniper knocking off people in the Washington DC area. The DC Beltway sniper and his accomplice were eventually caught after about a three week horrific period that resulted in the deaths of ten people and several more injured. By the time Phone Booth came out most people were unfazed about its connection, or lack thereof, with similarities to the real life sniper and the movie which did not cost much to make turned a profit. A good concept with a great performance from an early Colin Farrell at a taut 81 minutes, it is still worth checking out. 

 

Furious 7 (2015) directed by James Wan

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The seventh Fast and Furious entry was originally slated for a prime release date in the summer of 2014. It ended up being pushed back almost a year with a release date of April 2, 2015. The reason being the tragic death of its star Paul Walker. He died in a car accident unrelated to anything with the movie franchise. Following Paul Walker’s sudden passing the production stopped briefly since the entire cast and crew was likely too grief stricken to work. Only about half of Walker’s scenes were shot. They used his brothers to stand in for him during the rest of filming and in post production used digital effects to superimpose his face on them. In a cunning manner the filmmakers did not alter the screenplay to have Walker’s character die at the end but instead he is given soothing closure by leaving the group to live a peaceful life of retirement with his girlfriend. 

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