According to Variety, Sony's $120 million Nicolas Cage starrer Ghost Rider, based on the Marvel comicbook, has been bumped from its July 14, 2006, release date to President's Day weekend (February 16) 2007.

The move won't likely be the last for Sony, which still has six other pics to unspool during the upcoming summer months. Sony has 28 pics lined up for 2006 from its five divisions (Columbia, Screen Gems, TriStar, Revolution and MGM). Besides clearing the runway, moving films provides a breather for the Sony marketing department, which is in the midst of a reshuffle. Sony's worldwide marketing honcho Geoffrey Ammer is ankling in the new year and will likely be replaced by TriStar prexy Val Van Galder.

Sony's other summer '06 pics include Columbia's The Da Vinci Code (May 19); Col/Revolution's Click (June 23); Sony Pictures Animation's Monster House (July 21); Col's Will Ferrell NASCAR comedy (Aug. 4); and Revolution's Tim Allen starrer "Zoom" (Aug. 11) and Little Man (May 26).

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"I think everybody is looking at their release schedules in '06 and trying to avoid some of the traffic jams," Sony vice chairman Jeff Blake told Daily Variety. "Seven films for a summer is a lot."

Marvel Studios must now undo a carefully laid out plan of ancillary tie-in deals. Company declined comment on the matter.New release date gives the studio an expensive action pic with which to start 2007.

The February date also allows some buffer space between Ghost Rider and another Marvel franchise, Spider-Man 3, which Sony is releasing three months later in May.

Sony found the February date a better launching pad than the fall, which has become a haven for horror and family dramas, and when SPE will release such films as Dwayne The Rock Johnson starrer Gridiron Gang and a sequel to The Grudge.

Moreover, Ghost Rider no longer has to worry about opening in such close proximity to the June 30 bow of Superman Returns and the July 5 bow of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel and one week before SPE's franchise hopeful Monster House.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.