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Ben Affleck’s ‘Live By Night’ Lands Oscar-Friendly Christmas Release

As expected, Ben Affleck is joining his brother Casey in the Oscar fray.

"Live By Night"

“Live By Night”

Warner Bros.’ “Live By Night,” Ben Affleck’s long-awaited return to the director’s chair after the Oscar-winning “Argo,” will receive its long-anticipated holiday release date with a limited bow December 25.

The Boston ’20s drama starring Affleck and Elle Fanning, based on Dennis Lehane’s novel, will now open nearly a year earlier than first anticipated. Back in June, the studio pushed the movie’s release up from October 20, 2017 to January 17, 2017. This suggested they had the option of opening the movie for awards consideration in December, assuming Affleck got the movie finished. Back in August, Fanning, at least, told WWD that “it’s coming out in December, at the end of this year.

The next slot to watch for the film is Los Angeles’ AFI Fest, the new prime debut spot for late-year contenders. That festival also debuted Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” and Ava DuVernay’s “Selma,” both eventual Oscar players. Warren Beatty’s “Rules Don’t Apply” will world premiere at AFI Fest right before its November 23 release.

READ MORE: First Look: Ben Affleck’s Long-Awaited Gangster Drama, ‘Live By Night’

While Affleck can be hit or miss as a movie star, he’s a winner when it comes to directing. He hasn’t faltered yet, from “Gone Baby Gone” (his first Lehane adaptation) and “The Town” to his biggest hit, “Argo,” which was snubbed by the Academy directors but went on to three wins, including Best Picture. And it scored $227 million worldwide.

“Live By Night” stars Affleck as the son of a Boston policeman who pursues a career in the underworld. Zoe Saldana, Sienna Miller, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, and Chris Cooper also star.

Another movie on the cusp of a December release date was Reginald Hudlin’s “Marshall,” a biopic about Thurgood Marshall starring Chadwick Boseman and “The People v. O.J. Simpson” breakout Sterling K. Brown. But Open Road, which pushed “Spotlight” to a Best Picture win last year, decided to wait for the new year.

"Bleed For This"

“Bleed For This”

Open Road Films

The distributor has moved back the date for Miles Teller boxing picture, “Bleed for This,” from a limited November 4 release to a wide break on November 18. That’s called hedging your bets: while the film from director Ben Younger (“Boiler Room”) played to audiences at Telluride and Toronto, critics were muted in their praise, and it’s not ranking high with Oscar pundits.

Ranking at the top of Oscar-watchers’ lists is Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea” with Casey Affleck getting strong marks in the Best Actor category. So both Affleck brothers may find themselves on the Oscar circuit this year.

Christmas is crowded. “Passengers,” “Sing,” “Patriot’s Day,” and Julieta” open December 21, with Martin Scorsese set to deliver his much-anticipated Japan drama “Silence” to Paramount for December 23rd.  “Fences,” “Gold,” “20th Century Women” and “Toni Erdmann” will compete with “Live By Night” on Christmas Day.

Affleck is working with Warner Bros. on various Batman movies, having appeared in “Batman v. Superman: Justice League” with mixed results, as well as the upcoming “Justice League Part One.” Affleck is set to direct his standalone “The Batman” (current title) down the pike. Affleck also stars in Warners’ Gavin O’Connor thriller “The Accountant” (October 14) as an autistic math whiz who lacks social skills but uses his super-smarts to benefit a criminal syndicate. Anna Kendrick co-stars.

So the studio has reason to keep Affleck happy.

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