Last week Paramount Pictures announced that it was delaying the release of G.I. Joe: Retaliation. The action sequel was shifted from its June 29, 2012 launch to March 29, 2013 because the studio wanted to 'spend extra time converting the film into 3D'. The reason given for the 3D conversion was that the lucrative ticket price could maximise foreign box office revenue and make the film more profitable.
It seemed odd that a studio would pull such a big film just five weeks before it was set to open, and then wait another nine months before it hit screens. Well, not surprisingly the 3D conversion isn’t the real reason for G.I. Joe: Retaliation's delay. Not by a long shot. Scroll down for the real story.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR (THE OLD VERSION OF) G.I. JOE 2!
Deadline is reporting that G.I. Joe: Retaliation received scores in test screenings that ranged from “mediocre to bad”, and that the one shining light for the film was the relationship between Channing Tatum and Dwayne Johnson. There was just one tiny problem: Tatum’s character was killed off in the opening minutes of the film. The decision was made to delay the release, arrange a week of reshoots expanding Tatum’s role, and then convert the film into 3D.
Apparently, Paramount didn’t see Channing Tatum as a viable star for the sequel to their 2009 film - hence the reason that Retaliation is toplined by Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis. However, Tatum is now a box office draw following the one-two hit combo of The Vow and 21 Jump Street. That Tatum’s role in Retaliation will be expanded must be good news for his fans and his agent, who must have been able to negotiate a steep fee for the actor’s return.
This line of reasoning still equates the release delay to the cash-grab attempt so many fans saw it as. Hasbro (the toy company that owns G.I. Joe) already suffered the U.S. box office failure of Battleship, and G.I. Joe 2 would've been quickly overshadowed by The Amazing Spider-Man (which comes out a week after G.I. Joe 2's original release date). With this delay, the studio and toy company are clearly doing everything they can to secure some kind of profits from this venture.
Deadline writes that G.I. Joe: Retaliation’s director Jon M. Chu was ‘shellshocked’ by the news of the release date move (and presumably the reshoots), so it looks like he wasn’t part of the decision making process to change the film at this late stage. Paramount states the added cost of the new work to Joe will be $5 million, and that the budget of the film ‘should stay under $130 million’. This is something of a naive figure, when you take into account how much it must have cost to regroup the production for a week’s filming - and that a decent 3D conversion costs around $10-15 million. On top of this you have the added expense of creating a new marketing campaign for the film, and figuring out what needs to be done with the merchandise for a film that was scheduled to hit screens in the coming weeks.
This trouble for G.I. Joe: Retaliation has a similar parallel to the rumors in 2009 that stated G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra director Stephen Sommers was fired from post-production by Paramount after test screenings for that film resulted in the lowest scores in the studio’s history. Those rumors were shot down (but weren't completely eradicated, given the film's lukewarm reception); however, things look a lot worse for G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation will be released on March 29th, 2013. Hopefully.