To put it bluntly, the next two months at the multiplex are fucked. Between holiday blockbusters and dramatic fare gunning for Oscars, there is an unbelievable amount of new movies on the way, and it’s no surprise that some titles are going to shimmy and shift to get the best exposure possible. But when it concerns a highly anticipated movie about one of the most dramatic events in recent American history, in what could be a major awards season player, we have to sit up and take notice. Sony is looking at forgoing the wide release of Kathryn Bigelow‘s “Zero Dark Thirty” on December 19th for a New York and Los Angeles bow and platform release. Does this mean the movie isn’t a contender? Let’s not sweat it just yet.
Let’s take a look at the weekend of December 21st, shall we? With ‘Zero’ slated to open on the Wednesday before, that Friday will see “Jack Reacher,” “This Is 40” and “Monsters Inc. 3D” going wide. Meanwhile, at the arthouse is Michael Haneke‘s “Amour,” tsunami drama “The Impossible,” David Chase‘s “Not Fade Away,” and Walter Salles‘ “On The Road.” Mental. And oh yeah, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” opens the week before, while not long after, Christmas Day brings “Django Unchained” and “Les Miserables.” Now of all the wide releases, do you think audiences are going to shell out money for a very sober Osama Bin Laden drama in the height of the holiday season? Not likely.
Logistically, platforming makes more sense and will give Sony more room to keep rolling out press. Undoubtedly, Bigelow will be going down to the wire to finish the film, which shot earlier this year. Instead of trying to cram in all the advance interviews in time for a single release, as it rolls out it will give Bigelow and the cast room to breathe and do interviews and press as the movie reaches more markets over a few weeks.
Granted, maybe Sony realized the picture wasn’t going to be the Oscar horse they thought, and are adjusting accordingly, but we sort of doubt it. We think it’s the studio realizing the calendar is packed and word of mouth will only help “Zero Dark Thirty,” and this move might be wiser than throwing the film out there in one go and seeing if it will sink or swim.
Sony has yet to confirm any of this, but according to THR‘s report following the NY/LA December 19 bow, the film would expand to more markets on January 4th before going wide on January 11th. Official word is likely just around the corner.