Now showing, at last: Hollywood's 'new' releases this month are anything but

Cinema-goers who catch a glimpse of Youth In Revolt this week could be forgiven for thinking that its star, Michael Cera, looks distinctly more youthful than the man now promoting the film. They would be right. Youth In Revolt is one of many of 2010's "new" releases that is not quite as new as it sounds. When filming started on the quirky romantic comedy, Cera could still claim the title of teenager, but now he is approaching his 22nd birthday.

Thanks to the Hollywood writers' strike and some Oscar-grabbing schedule rearrangements by the studios, the first quarter of 2010 will be packed full of films that were shot more than two years ago. According to cinema experts, most of the films released early this year are at least a year older than usual.

"It's definitely not normal to hold films for that long, and I think that's a direct result of the writers' strike," said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations, an entertainment research company. "Instead of just releasing their films on a whim, studios have been holding on to them and spreading out their releases because they were scared they wouldn't have enough product."

At least 16 of the 28 films scheduled to be released in the first quarter of this year finished shooting in 2008 or earlier, figures from Exhibitor Relations show. In January and February, the crop will be particularly dominated by films shot in 2007 such as Daybreakers and The Lovely Bones, with around 70 per cent of releases shot at least two years ago.

Because January is renowned as the month to release films that are expected to do badly at the box office, some analysts believe this cluster of long-since finished movies is a sign of the dip in quality created by rushed productions ahead of the Hollywood writers' strike in 2007 and 2008.

Mark Cappuccio, writer for Screen Trade magazine, said: "January is traditionally a dumping ground for bad films because nobody goes to the cinema and it's a cheap time to release productions they can't get out.

"You can trace a lot of the problems with this January's films back to the script. A lot of films were rushed into production and finished quickly because of the writers' strike, and the quality threshold was much lower than normal. The studios have been sitting on them because they weren't good enough. Ninja Assassin is meant to be terrible and Shutter Island was apparently held back because it's rubbish."

NINJA ASSASSIN

With a title like Ninja Assassin nobody was expecting quality cinema, but delays in release have further stoked fears that this will be a gore-filled flop. Filming began in Germany in early 2008, but the movie won't reach UK cinemas until next week.

YOUTH IN REVOLT

Lead actor Michael Cera looks distinctly less youthful on the promotion circuit than he did during the filming of this quirky romantic comedy. By the time the film reaches UK cinemas next month he will be almost 22, and the film will have been sitting on the shelf for nearly two years.

DAYBREAKERS

This vampire thriller starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill has been languishing on the cutting room floor for nearly three years. Filming began in July 2007 but it will not hit cinema screens until next week.

THE LOVELY BONES

The cameras started rolling on the big-screen adaptation of Alice Sebold's novel in October 2007, but the wide release of Peter Jackson's film will not come until the end of this month. A limited US release in December ensured the film would qualify for a rather hopeful tilt at the Oscars.

SHUTTER ISLAND

This Scorsese horror starring Leonardo DiCaprio was supposed to be released last October but has now been pushed back to the middle of next month. The delay was rumoured to be as a result of DiCaprio's unavailability for promotion and a hope that interest in cinema releases will pick up after the recession.

GREEN ZONE

The Iraq War drama, starring Matt Damon and directed by Bourne creator Paul Greengrass, has taken almost as long as the war itself to finish. When filming began in January 2008, Bush was in power and the war was still on. By the time it appears in the UK in March, Blair may well have weaselled his way through the Chilcot inquiry and most of the troops will have left.

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THE WOLFMAN

The remake of the classic 1941 horror film was supposed to be a box office hit, but rumours that it is a pup have abounded since its release date has been repeatedly pushed back for re-edits. It is now scheduled to open at cinemas next month.

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