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How This Year’s Pack of Holiday Openers Impacts the Oscar Race

How This Year's Pack of Holiday Openers Impacts the Oscar Race

Below, listed alphabetically, are all the films in the awards mix opening over the next two weeks, at least in Academy voter hubs Los Angeles and New York. If you don’t live there, good luck seeing most of these before the Golden Globes (Jan.11) or Oscar nominations (Jan. 15). They will reach most major markets by Oscar night Feb. 22.  

I recap the three unreleased titles on the Foreign Language short list with American distributors at the end.

American Sniper (Warner Bros.)
12/25 – New York, Los Angeles
1/16 – Wide
the pattern set by previous Clint Eastwood awards contenders as well as
the similar “Lone Survivor” last year, this is opening narrow on
Thursday before its wide availability next month. 

Big Eyes (Weinstein)
12/25 – Wide
Originally intended
as a mid-level opening, TWC just announced (likely because of the
opportunity afforded by Sony’s “The Interview” pull-out) that this will have a
much wider, one-step release. Its main awards recognition has come in the Golden Globes comedy categories.

Cake (Cinelou/Freestyle)
12/31 – Los Angeles
1/23 – Limited multiple runs in 25 markets
Perhaps the most intriguing story this cycle. After its acquisition at Toronto by Cinelou, in partnership with Freestyle releasing, Jennifer Aniston has become an unexpected Best Actress contender, nominated for both SAG and the Golden Globe awards.

Inherent Vice (Warner Bros.)
1/9 – Limited expansion
its decent two-city platform opening, Warners is taking Paul Thomas
Anderson’s film (high on year-end critics’ polls but considered an Oscar
long-shot) to major markets, again limited, after the holiday. This is
much slower than TWC expanded Anderson’s “The Master”  or Warners did
with the similarly platformed “Her” last year.

Into the Woods (Buena Vista)
12/25 – Wide
to “Les Miserables” two years ago, this gets a wide Christmas Day
release. The hope is that a strong popular response could elevate its
Oscar hopes.

Maps to the Stars (Focus World)
2/27 – Limited; Video on Demand date unannounced, but likely no later than 2/27
Moore (who won for this role at Cannes) got a Golden Globe
actress/comedy nomination after the film had a 5 pm only showing at a
single Los Angeles theater with no publicity or reviews (the run did not
get Academy qualified, although it would have been eligible). Its
limited theatrical placement will be a minor adjunct to its prime
presentation on VOD.

Mr. Turner (Sony Pictures Classics)
12/19 – New York/Los Angeles
Leigh’s film has scored important wins for Timothy Spall (Cannes, New
York and the European Film Academy). It opens today in New York and Los
Angeles, with additional major market dates by early January. Its
further expansion beyond the normal specialized market likely depends on
its Oscar nomination haul.

A Most Violent Year (A24)
12/31 – New York/Los Angeles
1/16 – Major market expansion
big winner at the National Board of Review (best film and actor: Oscar
Isaac and supporting actress: Jessica Chastain), this opens on the last possible date. Other cities will follow in

Selma (Paramount)
12/25 – New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Atlanta
1/9 – wide
Apart from its position ahead of the nomination date, this Martin Luther King biopic will go into wide release on the following weekend –which celebrates the central figure of the story. Its chances in top categories would be boosted if it becomes a major popular success.

Still Alice (Sony Pictures Classics)
1/16 New York, Los Angeles
Moore has already won best actress awards and is considered the Oscar
favorite after one-week advertised and reviewed runs in New York and L.A., which will first open regular runs next month. Expect it to then
expand rapidly to other major cities in initially limited runs. Moore’s prominence in the race suggests a wider run in the weeks leading up to
the Oscars.

Two Days One Night (IFC)
12/24 – New York/Los Angeles
its future awards prospects are decreasing after its failure
to make the Oscar Foreign Language shortlist, Marion Cotillard’s
award-winning performance (including New York Film Critics and the
European Film Academy) remains an important art-house release (non-VOD,
unlike many IFC releases). January dates are anticipated for other big

Unbroken (Universal)
12/25 – Wide
Angelina Jolie’s prisoner-of-war drama may be lagging behind expectations in the awards race, but a strong popular response as it opens surprisingly wide on 12/25 could boost its chances.

Foreign Language Shortlisted Films

Three of the nine remaining contenders (“Ida,” “Force Majeure” and “The Liberator”) have already played extensively in major markets. Three surprise entries (“Tangerines,” “Accused” and “Corn Island”) do not yet have a U.S. distributor. Three others are set for initial release in the next two months, with the pace of expansion affected if they are nominated and/or win the prize:

Leviathan (Sony Pictures Classics)
12/25 – New York, 12/31 Los Angeles
The Russian submission, preceded by significant festival attention, gets a year-end platform date (similar to SPC’s “Amour” two years ago), with other initial cities to open in January.

Timbuktu (Cohen Releasing)
1/28 – New York/Los Angeles
This French production, the first officially submitted by Mauritania, opens initially after its hoped-for nomination, with the extent of further expansion beyond major cities to be determined at that point.

Wild Tales (Sony Pictures Classics)
2/20 – New York/Los Angeles
SPC actually had a one-week qualifying run in Los Angeles in October (for categories other than Foreign Language), but its relaunch will occur on the eve of the Oscars, guaranteeing that few outside those two cities, Academy members and select festival goers will see it before the award.

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