Annapurna Releasing will now open Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk” December 14 in New York and Los Angeles, with expansion December 25. Previously, the distributor planned to release the James Baldwin adaptation on November 30 in New York, followed by December 7 in Los Angeles, with expansions to follow.
It’s still in the core four specialty theaters: Lincoln Square and Angelika in New York, and the Landmark and Arclight Hollywood in Los Angeles. Changing release plans a few weeks out isn’t unusual, but draws greater attention in the highly charged and carefully calibrated world of year-end awards films.
According to Erik Lomis, distribution president at Annapurna, the change was simple cause and effect. When the company decided that expansion should begin Christmas Day, that made December 14 a logical opening date. Earlier expansion would be challenging, since the period leading up to the holiday is not a strong one for adult-audience films.
The December 14 opening also gives “Beale Street” breathing room. Films that open too early before Christmas are prone to exhibitor pressure to move out by the holiday, and lose huge grossing days. And with “Roma” moving from December 14 to November 21, “Beale Street” will have little competition for review attention. (Its Metacritic currently stands at 88.)
On December 25, Annapurna plans to add around 120 theaters, both specialized and in African-American neighborhoods, in the top 25 to 30 markets. Then it will add screens in stages, starting January 4, with up to 600 the first week in the top 75 markets. Increases will follow on the next two weekends, with the aim of 1,500 theaters.
Greig Fraser/Annapurna Pictures
“Beale Street” will go wider the same day that Annapurna releases two other significant titles: Adam McKay’s “Vice” and Karyn Kusama’s “Destroyer.” However, neither of these December 25 titles are direct conflicts with Jenkins’ film.
McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic, which will open wide, is considered a potential awards contender (as was “The Big Short” three years ago). And Kusama’s thriller will open in three theaters: the Arclight in Los Angeles, and in New York Landmark 57th St., and a downtown theater to be determined. It’s an awards run for Nicole Kidman, who gives an acclaimed performance, and the dates that follow allow Annapurna to capitalize on any attention with additional theaters January 4 in advance of a wider national break January 25.
Lots of moving parts here, but that’s the game when trying to manage awards titles for maximum impact. While Annapurna has three films in a tight timeframe (and a fourth with MGM’s “Creed II,” which opens wide on Thanksgiving), each has a distinct plan that doesn’t cannibalize the others. Still, for the Annapurna crew this will be the busiest of holiday seasons.