People all over Hollywood are trying to figure out why the Mouse moved this highly anticipated Jerry Bruckheimer production out of its previously announced June 16, 2009 slot. Opting instead to push the release of "POP : TSOT" back to May 28, 2010.
Some that I've spoken with have suggested that Mickey moved its Summer 2009 tentpole because Disney Studio execs were concerned that only 10 days separated the releases of "Prince of Persia" and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." And that once that Michael Bay movie opened in theaters on June 26, 2009, young adult males (who are supposed to be "The Sands of Time" 's key demographic) would have abandoned this Mike Newell film in favor of that Transformers sequel.
Still others have suggested that it was Mouse House managers' concerns about the Screen Actors Guild (More importantly, the possibility that SAG may strike later this year) that caused Disney to push back "Prince of Persia" 's release date by nearly a year. So that -- should any labor-related problems disrupt production -- "The Sands of Time" won't then be creatively compromised. This tentpole picture (which many within the company are hoping will help launch a brand-new "Pirates of the Caribbean" -like franchise) will show up in 2010 looking just as Newell & Bruckheimer intended. Which is a lavish action-adventure set in 9th century Persia that will feature eye-popping special effects.
And speaking of special effects ... Perhaps the most interesting explanation as to why Disney opted to push back "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Times" to May of 2010 came from the folks who handle FX for the Mouse. As one industry vet I spoke with late last week explained:
"Disney & Bruckheimer still remember all of the dough that they had throw at FX houses back in 2006 & 2007 in order to make sure that 'Dead Man's Chest' and 'At World's End' actually met their previously locked-in releases dates. We're talking about tens of millions of dollars being spent on overtime, bonuses and incentive payments -- just to make sure that all of those effects shots were in place once these 'Pirates' sequels were released to theaters.
And all of that extra money that Disney & Bruckheimer had to spend in order to get 'Dead Man's Chest' and 'At World's End' 's visual effects done ... That really cut into the profit margins on those 'Pirates' sequels. Which is why -- just as production was getting underway on 'Prince of Persia' -- Disney & Bruckheimer decided that they couldn't afford to make the same mistake again. This time around, they were going to allow themselves sufficient time to get all of this film's visual effects done at a reasonable price. Not pay through the nose for any more rushed-at-the-last-minute shots.
Of course, Disney & Bruckheimer had to push back "Prince of Persia" 's release date by almost a year in order to accommodate this new business plan. But in the long run, the money that these two will save on FX this time around will seriously be worth it. Particularly given the huge number of visual effects shots that are featured in "The Sands of Times," we're talking about a truly enormous cost savings here.
So this isn't about Disney or Bruckheimer getting cold feet on 'Prince of Persia' or anything like that. This is more about these production partners finally getting smart about how they spend their visual effects budget."
Mind you, there is a fourth theory out there floating around as to why "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" 's release date got pushed back to May of 2010. And that has to do with Disney's expectations for this new Mike Newell movie being so high that ... Well, Mouse House executives just wanted more time in order to co-ordinate a company-wide promotional plan. So that every possible platform at Disney (i.e. Disney Consumer Products, Disney Parks & Resorts, ABC, the Disney Channel, ESPN, Disney.com et al) could then be used to leverage this brand. Elevate "POP" from just being a garden variety summer blockbuster to then becoming ... Well, a "Dark Knight" -like phenomenon.
In short, what we're talking about here doesn't appear to be another "Valkyrie" -type situation. "Prince of Persia" 's release date wasn't pushed back because of any production related problems (Hell, the movie's only been shooting for two weeks at this point. Which is hardly enough time for "The Sands of Time" to have fallen behind schedule). But rather ... Well, for one or more of the reasons that I've listed above.
As to which explanation is the real reason that "The Sands of Time" got shifted from June of 2009 to May of 2010 ... Mickey's being mum on that for the moment.