FinestHoursIt’s that time of year – inevitably within a month or so of our annual movie preview episodes, studios start shuffling around release dates for the coming year. This Fall’s shuffle appears to be relatively minor, but reflects a rather interesting strategy by Disney.

It looks like the dominoes started to fall back in December, when Warner Bros. decided to move Andy Serkis’ directorial debut, Jungle Book: Origins from an October 2016 release to October 2017. At the time, The Hollywood Reporter suggested that Warner Bros. was buying the film some breathing room from the October 2015 release of Disney’s Jon Favreau-helmed Jungle Book film.

Today, Disney decided to suck up some of that oxygen, and chased after Warner Bros. entry by rescheduling the Favreau version of Jungle Book for an April 15, 2016 release. But the 2015 Disney movie slate will remain packed, with the same total of 11 films over 12 months. The Chris Pine/Casey Affleck/Eric Bana disaster-at-sea film The Finest Hours has been moved into the October 9, 2015 release window previously occupied by Jungle Book. The Hollywood Reporter story mentioned above cites a Disney insider suggesting that Disney felt that the more serious disaster film was better-suited to the Fall release period. I don’t know that anyone is really buying that rationale though, given that Disney used this release window in recent years for: Secretariat (2010); Frankenweenie (2012); and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014).

it does seem unusual that an epic, effects-heavy, live-action 3-D film would have its release date moved up by six months. Looking at the swapped release dates, the thing that jumps out at me is that perhaps Disney is trying to buy some breathing room for The Finest Hours. Early Fall 2015 is just about the only bare spot in a busy film release year for Disney, with nothing else on the calendar between the July 17 release of Ant-Man and The Good Dinosaur‘s Thanksgiving release. Meanwhile, pushing Jungle Book to April 15, 2016 gives Disney a bit of counter-programming to Columbia Pictures’ Goosebumps film.

What do you think of this release date swap? Are you interested in seeing a dramatic rescue-at-sea film from Disney this Fall? Are you disappointed that Disney’s latest version of Jungle Book is being pushed back? Why do you think they swapped dates? Tell us about it in the comments.

Hat tip to Kevin Crossman for the heads up on the date swap!

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