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This image released by Universal Pictures shows Keanu Reeves in a scene from ‘47 Ronin’. (AP)
Reeves comes off bogus in 'Ronin' Universal takes writedown on new Keanu Reeves film

LOS ANGELES: Comcast Corp’s Universal Pictures movie studio has taken unspecified write-downs for its $175 million, Keanu Reeves film “47 Ronin” that opens on Christmas Day, the studio has acknowledged, as Hollywood neared the end of a year of big budget bombs. The film, a fantasy action film about a group of samurai in 18th century Japan, cost $175 million to make, according to people with knowledge of its budget. It is expected to gross between $17 million and $20 million for the five-day Christmas Day holiday period through Sunday Dec 29, Hollywood experts have forecast, a particularly weak showing for a big budget film. “Universal Pictures regularly evaluates its film slate for potential adjustment,” said a Universal official. “In the case of ‘47 Ronin,’ we adjusted film costs in previous quarters and as a result, our financial performance will not be negatively impacted this quarter by its theatrical performance.” Universal did not disclose the size of the earlier write-owns.

Although Hollywood executives cautiously predict a record year at the box office, many had their own big budget misfires. Walt Disney wrote down the costs of the $215 million Johnny Depp western “The Lone Ranger,” which it had said lost more than $160 million. Earlier in the year, Dreamworks Animation took an $87 million write down for its 2012 holiday film “Rise of the Guardians,” while Warner Brothers’ “Jack the Giant Slayer” generated $197.7 million in worldwide ticket sales and cost $195 million to make. (Studios generally get half the ticket sales.)

Sony cited the “theatrical underperformance” of the $150 million thriller “White House Down” as one reason its studio recorded a $181 million loss in its second quarter. Universal’s “47 Ronin” tells the story of a half-Japanese former slave, played by Keanu Reeves, who joins a band of outcast samurai intent on avenging the death of their master and who battle mythic beasts and shape-shifting witches. (RTRS)

LOS ANGELES: Lionsgate was scrambling Tuesday to take down posters for “12 Years a Slave” from Italian movie theaters, after complaints that they subjugated black star Chiwetel Ejiofor in favor of the better-known and white stars Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender. Some of the posters had Pitt front and center, others featured Fassbender; in both, star Ejiofor is pictured much smaller in the lower corner running as the main character, Solomon Northrup. The misrepresentation of director Steve McQueen’s brutal slavery saga, a frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar, set off a storm in the blogosphere, after it was pointed out late Monday by Carefree Black Girl.

When Lionsgate’s Summit Entertainment, which is distributing “12 Years” in Italy, became aware of the posters, it said they “were unauthorized and were not approved by any of the producers or licensors of the film,” in a statement. Italian distributor BIM Distribuzione wasn’t talking, but most of the offending posters had removed by late Tuesday night, according to a people familiar with the matter. It’s not unusual for foreign exhibitors to play up the biggest name stars to sell US movies, but this one drew fire because Ejiofor is very much the center of the film as a man kidnapped and sold into slavery. (RTRS)

Pitt, who is a producer on the film, plays a minor role as a Canadian carpenter and Fassbender is a cruel slave master. “Summit Entertainment, acting as exclusive sales agent for the licensors, is investigating and taking immediate action to stop the distribution of any unauthorized posters and to have those posters currently in the marketplace recalled,” the studio said after reports about the posters surfaced. The $20 million drama from Regency Enterprises and the UK’s FilmFour has brought in more than $37 million at the box office in North America for distributor Fox Searchlight. A re-release is planned after the Oscar nominations on Jan. 16. “12 Years a Slave” is just beginning its foreign run. Summit has the international rights, with the exception of the UK, where FilmFour has them. (RTRS)

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