In a surprising move with only five weeks before opening, Lionsgate has dropped the Nicolas Cage period fantasy “Season of the Witch” from its expected March 19 opening day.
The date is already crowded with the Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning rocker “The Runaways,” Jude Law’s “Repo Men,” the family film “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and the romantic comedy “The Bounty Hunter” with Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston, but this is a dramatic move so close to opening. It was hastily done now to no doubt allow the studio to pull any advertising commitments for the film without incurring additional costs. Even more disconcerting for Cage fans though is that the studio does not have a new date yet for the Dominic Sena thriller.
A spokesman for Lionsgate told Variety, “We are looking for the best release date.”
That’s got to be disconcerting considering the original date was set for some time.
As for the film itself, “Witch” finds Cage playing a 14th-century knight who undertakes a mission pitting him against a devious witch and making him the last hope for the world against an ancient and dark force. The dark and moody adventure’s primary appeal is to men, but if you were to guess competition from the thriller “Repo Men” was the issue you’d be mistaken.
“Bounty Hunter” no doubt scared the studio the most, but its possible landing enough screens for an appropriate wide opening was part of the issue. “Runaways” is only expected to open on around 1,000, but with “Alice in Wonderland,” “Green Zone” and “Remember Me” also in the marketplace landing screens wouldn’t be easy for a film with as little buzz as “Witch” has so far.
Cage has had not had good luck with the mini-major previously as 2005’s “Lord of War” only grossed $24 million and 2008’s “Bangkok Dangerous” did even worse with just $15 million. The studio was no doubt aiming for a similar date as last year’s Cage hit “Knowing” (almost $80 million domestic), but the landscape is not as kind this time around. With April even more competitive than March and the summer movie season beginning in May, “Witch” may find itself pushed to a more comfortable Fall opening.