We’ve been following the story of Warner Bros.’ duel with Disney to produce a new live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book for a little while now, but it looks like Warners might be falling behind in the race to hit the big screen first. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel, Biutiful) has reportedly left the Warner Bros. production (which he only recently joined) after running into a scheduling conflict with another production he’s attached to – frontier tale The Revenant.
It’s no small matter who reaches the big screen first, and you need not look back further than this past summer for proof. Although neither film was superlative in quality, White House Down currently holds more than a ten point Metacritic edge over the decidedly similar Olympus Has Fallen. It also sported arguably more bankable stars (Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx over Morgan Freeman and Aaron Eckhart), a more well known director (Roland Emmerich), and a budget more than double that of Olympus. Yet Olympus made it to theaters three months before White House Down, and despite the latter’s more enviable release window (June, smack dab in the middle of the lucrative summer season, as compared to March) it is Olympus Has Fallen which has scored both the better U.S. box office numbers and a sequel. (White House Down comes out ahead in worldwide receipts, but not enough to offset the difference in cost between the two.)
Disney has already dated their Favreau-led project for October 9, 2015, plenty of time for Warner Bros. to complete a film first, but they’ll be going nowhere fast without a director, and the window to start principal photography in time to compete is closing.
Inarritu, meanwhile, is putting the final touches on his latest project, Birdman, a comedy about a formerly iconic actor trying to grab hold of the old glory. The project features a cast that includes Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Andrea Risenborough, Michael Keaton, and Zack Galifianakis, and is expected to release sometime this year, although distributor Fox Searchlight has yet to set a date and could be looking to raise the film’s profile by sending it to a couple of festivals prior to wide release.