From ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ to ‘Peterloo’: Crowded Fall Season Winnows Weaker Entries

It takes money and the right stuff to stay in the crowded fall season.
From 'Alita: Battle Angel' to 'Peterloo': Weaker Entries Go to 2019
Amazon Studios

Releasing a movie the old-fashioned way, in brick-and-mortar theaters, is an expensive and risky proposition, especially at the height of the fall rush, when premium bookings are hard to find. That’s why every year distributors take their weaker ducklings and push them back in order to find an easier, less costly landing, with room to breathe.

Thus, under new studio chief Jennifer Salke, Amazon Studios has not only indefinitely scuttled the release of tainted four-time Oscar-winner Woody Allen’s “A Rainy Day in New York,” starring Timothée Chalamet (greenlit by ousted Roy Price), but also is now moving Mike Leigh’s talky period battle recreation “Peterloo.” The push from November 9 to April 5 follows mixed critical reactions from Venice, Telluride and Toronto. (Leigh told me he is upset that the film was not invited by the prestigious Cannes and New York festivals as well, which have both played much of his oeuvre.)

The only reason to leave “Peterloo” in the fall frame was to grab an Oscar nomination or two. After all, the lauded British auteur has earned five screenplay and two directing nods for his films, plus other acting and craft nominations. While costumes would certainly deserve a nod, this time the exquisitely mounted but archaic speech-filled drama has been largely ignored by Oscar prognosticators.

Amazon has a packed fall slate: still to come are Chalamet vehicle “Beautiful Boy” (October 12), Luca Guadagnino’s horrific “Suspiria” (October 26), and Pawel Pawlikowski’s Polish Oscar submission “Cold War” (December 21).

Alita: Battle AngelFox

Already steering away from the busy fall period are Asghar Farhadi’s Cannes opener “Everybody Knows,” starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem (February 8, Focus Features), which was not submitted for the Oscars by Spain or Iran, James Gray’s sci-fi thriller “Ad Astra” (January 11, Plan B/Fox) starring Brad Pitt, Robert Rodriguez’s VFX-packed sci-fi epic “Alita: Battle Angel” (February 14, Lightstorm/Fox) starring Mahershala Ali and Michelle Rodriguez, and Richard Linklater’s adaptation of “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” (March 22, Annapurna Pictures), starring Cate Blanchett.

Given the choice, Neon opted not to release its hot TIFF documentary pickup “The Biggest Little Farm” until spring 2019. And so far, A24 is sticking with its spring plans for Sebastian Lelio’s remake, well-regarded TIFF drama “Gloria Bell,” despite the lure of pushing Julianne Moore in the 2019 Best Actress race.

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