Yesterday I read some news that was quite depressing to me. I have three movies that I simply can’t wait for. I am literally counting down the days until they come out. 57 days until Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 155 days till Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and 127 days until Ben-Hur. I honestly cannot figure out which one I am more excited for but I do know which of these counts just changed. Paramount announced yesterday “Ben-Hur has been pushed back to August 12, 2016… and the Reel Pastor can be found curled up in a corner crying.” Ok, the last portion was not part of the original announcement but it doesn’t make it less real.
After a night of screaming “Why! Why Paramount Why?” I woke up this morning and decided to try to answer that question. Since the announcement did not include an answer, the following will be a lot of speculation based on facts.
The first conclusion that one might be tempted to jump to would be that there are issues with the movie and that this move is a bad thing. There are some rumblings going around the internet movie blogging sphere that say the move was about needing more time to work on the film. None of those rumblings say anything about “fixing” the film. In fact, everything I could find has attributed the delay to the film being on such a large scale it is taking longer than they anticipated. So, even if the delay was simply about putting more work into the film, that in itself could point to good things. I would be upset if they released a version of the film that could have used an extra 6 months of work. But are there more reasons to view this as a good thing?
When the February release date was announced I was concerned. January and February have traditionally been dumping grounds for films that the studios don’t have any confidence in. It is a time of year where much of the population is blocked in their homes due to an abundance of snow. But this does not mean a film couldn’t succeed there. In fact, my thought was that the strategy might be to capitalize on the low amount of competition in those months giving Ben-Hur a good amount of time to dominate at the box-office. I pictured Ben-Hur as this giant of a film just stomping on all the little films crushing them under its big feet. I was starting to warm up to the date.
Now, in recent years things have begun to change and some people have called August, the new February. I think that is going a bit far but some may say it is the dumping ground for the summer season. If you have a movie that you think could be a summer blockbuster… but you just aren’t confident enough to say it is… put it in August. Is that what they are doing with Ben-Hur? I have reason to believe they are not. Let me explain why.
The February date placed Ben-Hur the same weekend as the Academy Awards. A time when movie fans will be more likely to spend a good block of time at home and not at the theaters. Moving from that date tells me they might have a little more confidence in the film then they originally had. But, why pick August 12th? August 12th places Ben-Hur right smack dab in the middle of the 2016 Summer Olympics! Could it be, that this move is not simply a show of a little more confidence, but could it be a bold confident move by a studio who might think they have something special? What if Paramount is now planning a huge promotional push during the first week of the Olympics? The theme of the story fits tone of the story fits PERFECTLY with the Olympics! You could do a media push conjuring up the history of competition. You could do all sorts of sponsorships and have athletes wearing Ben-Hur apparel. Scenes of the chariot race could be shown at every commercial break. It could just be a brilliant move! Then, during the second week of the Olympics, Ben-Hur’s first week in release, if it should hit #1 at the boxoffice you can now run ads that say “Go and see the number 1 movie in America!”
I just got done saying that August has become kind of a dumping ground for films that studios might not be as confident in… but when I say that, I am not talking about Paramount. Paramount placed Mission Impossible 5 in August. Mission Impossible was not a film they were concerned about, it was a big tent pole film for them. Over all, even though I hate the fact that I now have to wait almost an entire year to see this film I am pleased with the possibilities that a move like this could mean. I think that instead of the move showing problems, it actually shows confidence and that makes me excited!