$9 Million Added to GREEN LANTERN Budget; More VFX Houses Recruited as Film Hurdles Towards Release Date

     April 26, 2011


Martin Campbell’s Green Lantern is one of the most special-effects heavy films of the year and with only a little over six weeks until the film’s June 17th release date, Warner Bros. is spending more money to get all of the effects work finished.  Variety reports that the studios is spending an additional $9 million and has new visual effects houses working overtime to make the film’s release date.  But this isn’t an anomaly in Hollywood.  When it comes to tentpole movies, it’s become the norm and a dangerous one at that.  The problem is that studios are setting release dates and then rushing films to make sure that date is met.  Hit the jump for more on this troubling trend.

The studios are playing a dangerous game by setting their release dates in the near future and then crunching their tentpole features to make that date.  Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class started filming in September of last year in order to make a June 3rd release date.  I suspect that the reason we haven’t seen a new domestic trailer for the film is because the studio is rushing to get all of the effects work finished and can’t put together a trailer of new footage if that footage has incomplete FX.   Keep in mind: studios don’t seem to care if the effects work is high-quality.  2009′s X-Men Origins: Wolverine featured worse visual effects than the 2000′s X-Men, especially when it came to Wolvie’s claws, but hey, at least that movie met its release date.

So why are studios so adamant on holding onto something as fungible as a release date when it’s clearly driving up production costs and risks lowering quality?  Because there’s a perception that the ideal release date will net the biggest opening weekend and that any additional costs to meet that date will be balanced out by the box office tally.  Furthermore, the amount spent on marketing and merchandising all centers around the date so you can’t just sit on a bunch of Green Lantern toys and posters reading “June 17, 2011″ and then kick the film down the road.

Of course, this raises the question of why doesn’t a studio keep mum on a release date until they have a better idea of the ideal time to send a movie into theaters.  Surely Green Lantern could easily make a holiday 2011 release date, but I suspect that the rush to put it in the summer is that the faster you get a film out, the faster you can get to making the sequel.

And Green Lantern isn’t alone in its crunch to make a release date.  Variety reports that Captain America: The First Avenger is on a shorter schedule and for Transformers: Dark of the Moon “at least one vfx studio has gone to seven-day weeks, 12 hours a day, and canceled the Easter Sunday holiday for its vfx artists.”  (I really hope those folks are getting paid overtime).

green-lantern-movie-poster-kilowog-01And then you have to factor in the added cost of 3D.  Last year, Warner Bros. pulled the plug on giving the 3D treatment to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 because there wasn’t enough time to do a proper post-conversion.  The film only ended up making a measly $954 million worldwide, and was the third-highest domestic gross for a Harry Potter film.  Part 2 is currently set to be released in 3D.

This trend isn’t going away any time soon.  The Avengers started filming today and it’s due out on May 4, 2012.  The Hunger Games is still casting, but it’s got a release date for March 23, 2012.  The Dark Knight Rises starts shooting in May or June for a July 20, 2012 release date.  I have seriously reservations that Star Trek 2 can make its current June 29, 2012 release date if filming doesn’t start until late summer or early fall.  But the solution at this point for the studios is to simply throw money at the problem and this issue is likely to continue until some FX house drops the ball and a studio has to reschedule a tentpole flick.  And even then, I doubt this practice will change.  If anything, I see the trend of movies getting more expensive and more effects houses popping up to accommodate the extra work.  I just hope those visual effects artists are willing to give up their weekends and holidays.

  • J.R.

    At the end we are the winners right? what we all want is good movie!…… 9 millions just for FX huh?……… ;)

  • Mr. Blue

    Haha Is somebody hearing that thunder roar for Marvel?

  • J.R.

    Captain America – Thor – X-men First Class vs. Green Lantern 2011

    Superman and Batman vs Spidey 2012

  • Mr. Blue

    Actually 2012 will be Superman and Batman vs Spider-Man and The Avengers! How could you forget the Avengers JR?lol

  • Tol

    And I bet Warner Bros. are kicking themselves that there was not enough time to post convert to 3D, as it would’ve probably netted them an extra $250m or so on the gross for Part 1.

    The special effects so far look great, just hope they maintain that quality in the final product.

  • Jesus

    I think you mean ‘hurtles’ not ‘hurdles’. Both *could* work, but from the context you clearly meant hurtles.

  • kure

    Actually 2012 will be Superman and Batman vs Spider-Man vs The Avengers vs Wolverine.and you can add ghost rider and dredd

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  • sharrow

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  • Jim

    They can polish this turd all they want…

  • Steven

    I can certainly understand your concern Matt Goldberg, but I don’t necessarily agree. There are plenty of movies that have had ridiculously small gaps between shooting and post-production and have turned out just fine (at least visually)… I’m pretty sure the first two transformers movies were shot in less than a year, and had some pretty spiffy looking effects. Hell, filming for Cloverfield wrapped like four or five months before the movie came out and they still managed to put together a competent, effects-heavy film.

    At best all you have is a “concern” that eventually if they keep cutting these release dates as close as they can something is going to happen that will botch the quality of a movie (your example with Harry Potter makes sense, but I don’t necessarily think Wolverine was a rush job, it looks like they had over a year of post-production time alone), personally until it actually happens I don’t really see a need to be concerned over this.

    Personally, I’m more concerned about this trend in relation to video games, I think there’s far more flagrant examples of half-finished (or to be more concise “untested”) products in the gaming scene than there are with movies.

  • J.R.

    i though 2013 for the Avengers!?……..wow to much CBM huh?

  • D

    At least the Hunger Games film won’t need to much in the way of special effects, as its mostly a fight for survival in the woods. Its still going to be tight though.

  • Roland

    You know what, as far as I’m concerned the fact that they keep throwing money at the project and trying to improve the VFX tells me they are trying to make up for something else…

  • Jake

    I don’t really care about green lantern tbh but i hope to god that Matthew Vaughn can get the special effects in first class finished and looking good before it’s released because i know it’s gonna be a really awesome movie if he can.

  • Nabster

    One dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow. The time cost of money is the reason they want these films out there as soon as possible.

  • Migz13

    I think the reason why they set a release date early on even before film starts is to build on hype and intrigue. This is the case especially for films that have HUGE fan bases like super hero movies. Want an example?
    I got 4 words: THE. DARK. KNIGHT. RISES

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  • Terry

    Is this article serious? Really! Who cares!
    I’m sure if we talk with movie insiders we’d find out this is done all the time(THE NORM).
    GL looks like crap anyway with a Greatest American Hero feel.

  • BatNips

    Probably need more VFX shots of his juicy green toes no doubt…

  • Sean

    “Film Hurdles Towards Release Date”

    I think you meant to use the word “Hurtle” – “To fling with great force; hurl.”