Jane Got a Gun is a passion project for Oscar-winner Natalie Portman, though it came unexpectedly close to collapsing at the last moment (quite literally). For reasons that have yet to be fully explained in public, acclaimed filmmaker Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin) didn't show up on the first scheduled day of production; over the weeks that followed, a handful of high-profile actors played musical chairs with the role of the film's antagonist (before Ewan McGregor accepted the gig), while director Gavin O'Connor (Warrior) jumped in head-first to serve as Ramsay's replacement.
With an Academy Award-winning lead surrounded by an impressive roster of character actors - plus a well-respected helmer calling the shots - there's still plenty of reason to believe that Jane Got a Gun will turnout alright. However, it appears that Relativity's head executives don't believe the project has potential as an awards season contender; we previously speculated that the film could move to the middle of the Oscar season after being delayed from an August 2014 release date, but we now know that won't be the case.
Jane Got a Gun - based on the original script by Brian Duffield (Insurgent) - is now slated to hit U.S. theaters on February 20th, 2015. Fifty Shades of Grey and the Poltergeist remake are going to be opening a week earlier, but for now Jane has that particular date to itself, as far as opening weekend titles go. February used to be considered a dumping ground for studios to leave their least bankable (and more embarrassing) projects; next year, however, there are a number of star-studded, promising titles arriving during that month, starting with the Johnny Depp caper Mortdecai.
While it's extremely doubtful, put mildly, that Jane Got a Gun will become the next LEGO Movie at the box office, it could well perform better financially in February than it would've during the competitive Oscar season. Similarly, the western drama/thriller - a tale about a woman (Portman) who seeks help from her former lover (Joel Edgerton) to protect her family from dangerous outlaws - might well become an early-year word of mouth hit like Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel did recently - assuming it lives up to its artistic potential, that is.
Speaking of February, Paramount has scheduled the new cinematic adaptation of Ben-Hur to open during that month in 2016 - February 26th that year, to be exact, where it is currently the sole title opening that day, though a new Ridley Scott movie (possibly the Prometheus sequel) is due to arrive one week later. The new Ben-Hur film is being sold as a re-adaptation of the Lew Wallace 19th century novel "Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ"; one which pays greater attention to the experiences of Jesus Christ - as depicted in the book - than William Wyler's 1959 movie adaptation does.
Paramount is also the studio that released Darren Aronofsky's Bible-inspired big-budget feature Noah earlier this year. The controversy surrounding that film didn't prevent it from grossing over $300 million worldwide so far, though Paramount has already taken steps to avoid similar protests with Ben-Hur, as Deadline reports that the project will be co-produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. That duo also backed the History Channel's The Bible mini-series - a program that offers a comparatively purist interpretation of its source material - so they're all the more comfortable with handling the pressures that surround a Biblical adaptation.
As far as the quality of the new Ben-Hur goes, the film ought to boast some impressive spectacle and stylistic embellishments, courtesy of the director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). There could also be some respectable dramatic substance to go alone with that, as Bekmambetov shall be drawing from the most recent screenplay draft, written up by Oscar-winner John Ridley (12 Years a Slave).
Jane Got a Gun opens in U.S. theaters on February 20th, 2015, followed by Ben-Hur just over a year later on February 26th, 2016.