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'Red 2' vs. 'R.I.P.D.': Which will win the weekend?

'Red 2' and 'R.I.P.D.' seem aimed towards a similar audience. What will happen when they face off at the box office?

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But the idea that studios have that kind of flexibility in picking a release date is really a fallacy: Releases are set as early as possible, sometimes even during pre-production, and when a film of a certain stature grabs a date, everyone else starts jockeying for position.

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And there are only so many positions.

"Where were they going to go?" asked Greg Laemmle, of the eponymous Los Angeles-based theater chain, referring to "Red 2" and "R.I.P.D."

"You've got 'Pacific Rim' on July 11, 'Wolverine' in July 26. It may well be there was no place else to go, and there's so much in the pipeline that they'd be pushed right out of the summer," Laemmle said.

So if the studios behind "Reds 2" and "R.I.P.D." were trying to put their movies into the summer season, this was probably the first weekend they could find without a gigantic, globally recognized title in place.

"R.I.P.D." had already announced a July 19th release when Summit parent Lionsgate decided to move "Red 2" onto that same date, said Universal spokeswoman Kori Bernards. "You'll have to ask them what that was about."

Lionsgate had no comment for this story, but insiders say both Lionsgate and Universal seem to have realized their movies had a better chance against each other, despite having to share the same older audience, than against a summer blockbuster like next weekend's "Wolverine," for instance. And neither one of the films was big enough to scare the other off the date.

The result is a faceoff between two pictures going for the same demographic, and in a way, that's too bad, especially for audiences looking for a break from robots, spacemen and Johnny Depp wearing a dead crow on his head.

"Any studio that targets the under-served adult audience is smart," said Anne Thompson, who writes Thompson on Hollywood for Indiewire.

So we have two studios well aware of that and their two movies playing chicken in a game where it's very expensive to blink.

"It's very, very rare that a release date gets postponed," said Robert Bella, who has supervised post-production on such films as "Lincoln," ''War Horse" and "The Help." ''Anything can be done if you have enough time and money, of course, but those release dates get set as far in advance as possible and it's always a mad dash the closer you get to the target date," he said.

"Some movies can tell you a year from now, or two years, when they're going to open, and then everyone else starts reacting," Bella continued. "I bet it won't be long before the next 'Star Wars' announces its date."

At which point producers of other films eyeing that same date will no doubt scurry to their calendars and start looking for alternatives.

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