Universal Moves Oliver Stone’s ‘Savages’ From Fall To July 6 Opening

EXCLUSIVE: Looks like Universal Pictures smells a summer hit in Savages, the Oliver Stone-directed adaptation of the bestselling Don Winslow novel. After screening a cut late last week, the studio has moved the film up to a July 6 slot. It had been scheduled to be released September 28. That puts it right in the heat of the summer with a shot at counter-programming against the tentpoles. Sony opens The Amazing Spider-Man on July 4 and Fox’s Ice Age sequel opens July 13 (along with the Universal-distributed Seth MacFarlane-directed comedy Ted). The Dark Knight Rises follows on July 17.

Scripted by Shane Salerno & Winslow & Stone, the film focuses on Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch), two pot growers who refuse to knuckle under to a Mexican cartel and then have to find a way out after the cartel kidnaps the free-spirited girl they share (Blake Lively), who’ll be killed if the pot growers don’t capitulate and pay a huge ransom. They do it by ripping off the cartel’s shipments, a most dangerous game. The film also stars Benicio Del Toro, freshly Oscar-nominated Demian Bichir, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Emile Hirsch, Twilight Saga‘s Mia Maestro and Salma Hayek. Simon & Schuster recently announced it would publish a prequel novel by Winslow to coincide with the film’s fall release, and it will be interesting to see if the publisher moves up the book to summer. Moritz Borman and Eric Kopeloff are producing and Salerno is exec producer.

The move gives Universal two summer films starring former Friday Night Lights star Kitsch, who opens in Battleship on May 18. He opens in Disney’s John Carter on March 9.

Comments (26)

  • Potentially good counter-programming, but two days after Spidey seems like a big risk.

    Comment by Rex — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 7:32am PST  
    • two days after the 4th of july seems like a good idea. and plus savages is an R-Rated Film aimed for adults as Potentially good counter-programming against A PG-13 superhero summer blockbuster like spidey which is getting rebooted plus the older adults who are not into the whole superhero thing like spidey. may want to see something as real and as dark like savages which may look like an early academy award contender for next year’s oscars

      Comment by rob — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 8:33am PST  
      • Is it really real and dark though? I’m having difficulty imagining Stone doing the drug cartel thing in any way that’s not a rehashed 80s way. I’m not talking about the book here, just the basic concept and the kinda-over-the-hill director. Full of cliches, is what I’m seeing.

        Comment by lana — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 11:32am PST  
        • Universal released Public Enemies on July 1, 2009 against Transformers and Ice Age and it did $100m domestic. I am sure this is part of what is behind Universal’s thinking.

          Comment by Public Enemies — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 7:09pm PST  
    • Savages is going to come out of nowhere like Pulp Fiction did. Summer adult films have worked – think Collateral and Road to Perdition to name just two.

      Comment by Tommy — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 4:04pm PST  
    • I think this will work. It is risky to be sure but I think they pull it off. Savages has a huge, sexy cast that will land magazines covers and talks shows. They will stand out against the summer dreck. Everyone said Tron would bomb and it did $450m worldwide. I think John Carter does similar business. Battleship is going to be Transformers big.

      Comment by Mark — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 4:08pm PST  
  • Does this also mean it might not be a big Oscar contender? September is generally when “Oscar-bait” films start playing, so I’m curious whether or not Savages is pure commercial play or has awards potential. Not confident in Stone, but the cast is pretty intriguing.

    Comment by Yamaka — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 8:10am PST  
    • Inglorious Basterds was released in August though. Not saying it’s Oscar-bait but I wouldn’t necessarily count it out because of the release date too.

      Comment by Bryan — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 8:26am PST  
    • MIDNIGHT in PARIS was also released in the summer, so there is a precedent. This film is going after an older audience anyway and there is no film like this the entire summer!

      Comment by Yo — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 11:20am PST  
  • Book was awesome. Hope he knocks it out of the park. Isn’t there a prequel in the works too?

    Comment by smellsahit — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 8:24am PST  
  • Summer hit my foot. They just want to get it out and be done with it. Battleship’s looming fiasco will not allow this movie to survive if they release in Fall. Taylor is about to have a great year. NOT.

    Comment by Mike Jevons — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 9:45am PST  
    • Taylor Kitsch is set up for a bad year-Battleship and John Carter will be major failures. Blake Lively is on a downward spiral. She’s a television actress that can’t hack it in movies. We can expect Savages to flop hard on the great American family weekend.

      Comment by Dawn — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 11:25am PST  
      • I’ll bet it’s a minor hit on a par with Inglourious Basterds. The novel’s got a real Elmore Leonard vibe with a Butch & Sundance devil may care spirit. Looking forward to this.

        Comment by Fucking Studio Plant — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 9:23pm PST  
  • IMHO this is a serious misstep by Universal. Not only is the competition cutthroat in July, but the move puts Kitsch in serious danger of overexposure and backlash, and “Savages” will be hit the hardest since it’s coming out last.

    Comment by Reese — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 9:54am PST  
    • I have to agree. I’m not sure being buried between Batman, Ice Age and Spider-Man is doing Oliver Stone any favors. He’ll be lucky to even get any press coverage with all that going on. September would have been a far better roll out date for his film and it would get more press coverage. Virtually no chance of that now. All the press will be talking about Batman vs Spider-Man – which is doing better at the box office? Pity – Savages sounds interesting. A sort of Pulp Fiction meets Natural Born Killers vibe.

      Comment by M.Scott Verne — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 12:12pm PST  
  • Blake Lively in an Oliver Stone film? Oh yeah, she’s getting naked.

    It will be…a DELIGHT.

    Comment by Truth-o-Meter — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 9:57am PST  
    • disappointed that Blake’s character is a mere prop in the plot line as opposed to actually growing herself and being involved in any of the action. Sad that such a socially progressive film would still fall back on ‘damsel in distress’ tropes. I hope the film and book prove me wrong…

      Comment by why are women always props??? — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 12:05pm PST  
      • it looks like selma hayek’s character might make up for it —
        now totally psyched

        Comment by actually — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 12:08pm PST  
  • Seems a bad omen for this kind of films – like it’s not worth saving up for the Oscars season, like Yamaka said. It’s like they’re hoping to capitalize on the summer rush, knowing there’s not much more there to sell. I can’t say I’m terribly surprised tho, Stone hasn’t had the best track record lately.

    Comment by Lana — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 10:26am PST  
    • Right well Fox moved Wall Street 2 from April to September in the hopes of Oscar chances (and capitalizing on Cannes), but that never went anywhere.

      Comment by Jack — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 11:17am PST  
  • I’m intrigued about the story of the ex-SEAL who becomes an enforcer. A close family friend is a Special Ops soldier, and depending on this kid’s moral compass, with the skill set he has, he could go either way when he’s out of the military.

    He rides a Harley, and can’t go to a bar without a certain notorious motorcycle club trying to recruit him into their ranks. He’s had offers to become a bodyguard. He’s had offers to continue on in the military. His mom still holds out hope that he’ll be a teacher. He’s only twenty-five, and his head is spinning.

    I’m looking forward to getting his opinion on Savages.

    Comment by ONEandDONE — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 11:31am PST  
  • Friday Night Lights was one of the best tv series ever so what a perfect crime moment for Taylor Kitsch..

    Comment by Dave — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 12:53pm PST  
  • I see it as great news, You don’t have to wait until September to see it – The book was awesome!

    Trust in Winslow with the script, he is one of the best.

    Comment by Richard H — Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 1:20pm PST  
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