1408 Abandons Harry Potter’s Slot

Counter-programming has often been a reliable tool for Hollywood, and last Summer saw one of the signature examples of the trend when “The Devil Wears Prada” opened to stellar sleeper hit business against “Superman Returns” which failed to capture a sizable audience.

Last week however saw the perfect example of the potential downside of this gambit – “Spider-Man 3” opened to a $151 million juggernaut haul, but the sole other wide release was the more adult-aimed gambling drama “Lucky You” with Eric Bana and Drew Barrymore. The project, along with marketing & publicity, is said to have cost its studio somewhere in the $50-70 million range – and its haul? A disastrous $2.5 million.

In fact all the films in cinemas last weekend, hoping to get a boost off audience members turned away from or seeking something other than Spidey, saw large drop-offs across the board – so much so that it’s put a scare into some films counting on that normally reliable counter-programming dollar.

The first to move is “1408” says Slashfilm, the John Cusack-led adaptation of a Stephen King short story. Scheduled to open July 13th, the same weekend as the next film in the mega-earning “Harry Potter” franchise, it has now been pushed up a few weeks to June 22nd opposite two other unsure bets – Steve Carrell comedy “Evan Almighty” and Elisha Cuthbert horror flick “Captivity”.