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Ben Affleck’s ‘Live By Night’ May Enter Year-End Oscar Derby

Warner Bros. hasn't yet decided whether to move up the opening for director Ben Affleck's new film, which also stars Sienna Miller and Zoe Saldana. But Elle Fanning says it's coming out in December.

Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne

Warner Bros.

In late summer, studios check out rough cuts for movies that might be finished in time for year-end release. Top filmmakers and stars are eager to grab one of those key slots. But for distributors, mounting a big year-end release is costly — especially with awards campaigns attached. The movie had better have the goods. Going in January is one option.

For example, when awards-savvy Weinstein Co. commits its (limited) resources to a full campaign on Garth Davis’s “Lion,” which is hitting the fall festival circuit, then you know it’s a bonafide contender. But when “The Founder” gets a late-year limited slot with a January break, you know they’re pushing a Best Actor campaign for Oscar perennial Michael Keaton in order to boost attention.

Thus, eyes have been on Warner Bros. and Boston ’20s drama “Live By Night,” Ben Affleck long-awaited return to the director’s chair after the Oscar-winning “Argo.” Back in June, the studio pushed the movie’s release up from October 20, 2017 to January 17, 2017. This meant that they still have the option of opening the movie for awards consideration in December. Assuming Affleck gets it done in the midst of all his other activities. Elle Fanning, at least, told WWD that “it’s coming out in December, at the end of this year.”

The new prime debut spot for late-year contenders is Los Angeles’ AFI Fest, which debuted Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” and Ava DuVernay’s “Selma,” both eventual Oscar players. Word is that Warren Beatty’s “Rules Don’t Apply” will world premiere at AFI Fest right before its November 23 release, because Beatty thinks the early fall fests are too early.

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” and “The Town” to his biggest hit, “Argo,” which may have been snubbed by the Academy directors, but went on to three wins including Best Picture. And it scored $227 million worldwide.

Other movies on the cusp include Reginald Hudlin’s “Marshall,” a biopic about Thurgood Marshall starring Chadwick Boseman and “The People v. O.J. Simpson” breakout Sterling K. Brown. Hudlin is still editing, and Open Road, which pushed “Spotlight” to a Best Picture win last year, has not seen the movie yet. Martin Scorsese is set to deliver much-anticipated Japan drama “Silence” to Paramount for the end of the year. Will he finish in time?

Affleck’s second film based on a Dennis Lehane novel (“Gone Baby Gone”), “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.

Affleck is working with Warner Bros. on various Batman movies, having appeared in “Batman v. Superman: Justice League” with mixed results, as well as still-shooting “Justice League Part One,” and is set to direct a standalone “Batman” 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 is in bed with Affleck for a while and has reason to keep him happy.

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