The Weinstein Co. confidently debuted John Wells and Tracy Lett’s entertaining no-holds-barred R-rated film adaptation of the Pulitzer and Tony-winning stage hit “August: Osage County” at the Toronto Film Festival. Since then TWC has been working their SAG and Golden Globes magic, but the movie hasn’t been getting love from year-end critics groups. (So far it’s at 67% on Metacritic.)
Initially slated to go wide on December 25 at the height of the holiday period, “August: Osage County” was quietly pulled back to a limited New York/Los Angeles Christmas run, with a plan to go wide on January 10. Now the Weinsteins are switching things up again, moving those engagements back two days to December 27.
Why? It happens to be the first day for Oscar nomination balloting, which allows TWC to maximize their ad expenditures towards that date in NY/LA. And this way the wide break will parallel the January 12 Golden Globe Awards and the January 16 Oscar nominations, which should hopefully boost the movie’s want-to-see with audiences, who will be attracted by an all-star cast including likely Best Actress Oscar nominee Meryl Streep as well as Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard and Misty Upham.
The darkly humorous dysfunctional family drama has to open for a week before year’s end in order to qualify for the Oscars, of course, but a smaller break could yield larger initial numbers. And waiting a few days for the Christmas big guns to get out of the way allows the Weinsteins to maximize their weekend grosses. Also, booking good screens is an issue during this prime playing time. There’s also less risk of quick mixed word-of-mouth hurting their first few days–the film could yield a huge opening day, but might fall off quickly. Better to have those numbers included in a three-day weekend total to more impress exhibitors as TWC tries to book their January 10 dates.
This move will also will make the New York and L.A. Times reviews more prominent. And the wide delay also allows for new dates for timely biopic “Mandela” (around 800 has been announced as the goal) and more room for awards-friendly “Philomena” to play through in some cities.
No one knows how to fine-tune a release like the Weinsteins. But this also suggests far less confidence in ‘AUgust: Osage County” than did that initial wide break. Truth is, the critics could do some damage to this movie, which is a crowd-pleaser but is up against a lot of year-end competition.