'This Means War' official release date delayed
In an unusual move, 20th Century Fox is pushing back the official opening of the romantic action-comedy "This Means War" from Tuesday, Feb. 14 to Friday, Feb. 17. The move may be designed to let the studio avoid reporting what likely would have been weak box-office receipts on Valentine's Day.
However, the movie will still get a "sneak preview," playing once Tuesday evening at between 2,000 and 2,500 locations nationwide. "This Means War" will then disappear from theaters for two days and officially open on Friday.
Pre-release surveys indicate audiences are less interested in "This Means War," which stars Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, and is directed by McG, than other movies opening in the next week. In particular, the romantic drama "The Vow" starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum is proving popular with women, who are also a target audience for "This Means War." Research shows that women often dictate moviegoing choices on Valentine's Day.
"The Vow" is expected to open to at least $30 million from Friday through Sunday, while "This Means War" is on track to take in about half that much on its first weekend.
By playing the movie as a "sneak preview," Fox will not be expected to publicly report its grosses for Tuesday and potentially disclose that it came in No. 2, if not lower, generating negative press attention going into the weekend. Instead, the only public discussion around the film will be whether people who attended the sneak screening liked "This Means War."
"Word of mouth is great on this movie, and this gives people more time to talk about it," said Fox executive vice president of distribution Chris Aronson. "Sometimes you’ve got to let the movie speak for itself."
Typically, sneak previews happen a week or more before a movie debuts. Fox's "We Bought a Zoo," for instance, was previewed over Thanksgiving weekend but didn't officially open until Christmas Day.
Fox's last-minute gambit with "This Means War" is a gamble, in part because widespread advertisements have proclaimed that it opens Feb. 14.
Fox is betting that positive buzz will help boost the box-office tally for the approximately $65-million production on the weekend of Feb. 17.
— Ben Fritz and Amy Kaufman
Photo: Chris Pine, left, Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy in "This Means War." Credit: Kimberly French / Fox.