Hollywood delays summer film releases in Mexico

May 1, 2009 6:56:16 PM PDT
With movie theaters in Mexico shut down to contain the spread of swine flu, Hollywood studios have delayed plans to kick off the summer movie season there. The country is regularly among the top 12 foreign markets for U.S. movies. Actors who had plans to promote films in the country, such as Hugh Jackman and Miley Cyrus, are also staying away for now.

That has left some fans, stuck at home as public life in the country has slowed, relying on movie rentals and TV for entertainment.

Gibran Valencia, 23, has spent time watching rented movies, cooking and cleaning his Mexico City home since his admission exam for a music college was postponed recently.

Valencia was looking forward to the debut of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," but the premiere was pushed back from this weekend. Even if theaters open soon, he's wary of mingling with the crowd and said he'll avoid theaters for a month.

"I'd let things settle down more in case there's someone with the virus there," he said.

News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox now says "Wolverine" is set for a tentative May 14 start in Mexico, although the film opens in the rest of the world this weekend. Fox said it expected theaters in Mexico, most of which closed last weekend, to reopen May 10, but is watching the situation closely.

"Wolverine" star Jackman is scheduled to go to Mexico on May 12 or 13, making up for an appearance he canceled this week. Cyrus, the star of "Hannah Montana: The Movie," also recently canceled an appearance in Puebla, 65 miles southeast of the capital. The Walt Disney Co. has indefinitely postponed the Mexican releases of "Hannah" and the documentary "Earth."

Sony Corp. moved the Mexico release of "Terminator Salvation" to July 31 from June 5 and "Angels & Demons" to June 12 from May 15. "Star Trek" is set for worldwide release May 8, but Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures said its opening in Mexico is being put off indefinitely.

Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. pushed the release of the romantic comedy "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" to June 12 from May 8 in Mexico. It was released Friday in the U.S.

One of the big challenges for the studios in reshuffling the release dates is avoiding having their summer blockbusters go head-to-head on the same weekend.

If the crisis continues, Warner Bros. might also delay the Mexico release of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," which is slated for July 15.

"This is obviously a very fluid situation," said Warner Bros.' president of international distribution, Veronika Kwan-Rubinek. "Dates could continue to change based on current events as well as how competitive dates line up."

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