Two major studio films saw their release dates pushed back on Tuesday. Sony (NYSE:SNE) and 20th Century Fox’s (NASDAQ:FOXA) The Monuments Men was rescheduled for release in February, while Paramount Pictures’s (NASDAQ:VIA) The Wolf of Wall Street saw its release moved to December 25 — the latter of which seemed likely to be delayed until 2014 in recent weeks.
The continuous shifting of release dates this year led The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg to write, “In the decade-plus that I’ve been covering Oscar races, I’ve never seen anything quite like this year, in which major awards hopefuls have been dropping like flies.” Indeed, the constant changes in film release dates this awards season seem unlike any year in recent memory. While studios have nearly unanimously blamed the shifts on a need to complete the films, Feinberg writes that high-level industry insiders say there’s another big reason for the topsy-turvy release schedule: fear.
Feinberg said in his analysis that 2013 “has shaped up to be such a competitive year that some distributors would rather hold their films until the next cycle in the hope that they will stand a better chance of getting noticed.” Though studios have often taken the opposite strategy, rushing to release films during awards season due to lack of strength – Feinberg points to Million Dollar Baby in 2004, Letters From Iwo Jima in 2006, and Crazy Heart in 2009 as examples — things are far different in 2013. “This year, after assessing the field, distributors are running in the other direction,” Feinberg said in The Hollywood Reporter.
With that in mind, here are five films that have had their release dates shifted or withheld, and how the decision could impact the films.
The Monuments Men (Sony and 20th Century Fox)
Amid rumors and speculation, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed on Tuesday that George Clooney’s The Monuments Men has been pushed back to February after originally securing a prime domestic release of December 18. According to the Los Angeles Times, which first broke the news, Clooney and producing partner Grant Heslov asked Sony and 20th Century Fox to postpone the release partly because the film still needed time to complete hundreds of visual effects.
The Monuments Men, which centers on the true story of a group of art historians and museum curators tasked with rescuing precious pieces of art during World War II, was previously labeled as one of the frontrunners for this year’s Academy Award for Best Picture, but it will now be ineligible for the upcoming awards season. Distributed by Sony domestically, with Fox handling international distribution, the film stars Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, and Clooney.
The emphasis on the delay being “partly” because of visual effects work has led to speculation as to whether Clooney and the studios believed the film would have a better chance at winning in 2014 than trying to compete with the stacked 2013 awards season lineup — something that would also seem to display a lack of confidence in the film altogether. We’ll know for sure what the reason for the delay is when the film is released in February into a generally unimposing movie landscape.
The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount Pictures)
The Wolf of Wall Street, from director Martin Scorsese and Paramount Pictures, has had a lively month. Originally slated to be released on November 15, Paramount announced the film would be delayed to an unspecified date due to the film’s editing not being completed. According to what industry insiders told The Hollywood Reporter, the filmmaker was having trouble cutting down the run time. But on Tuesday, the studio announced that the film would indeed make the 2013 deadline, delayed a little more than a month to a December 25 release.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, and Matthew McConaughey, The Wolf of Wall Street is a biographical drama based on the memoir of the same name by Jordan Belfort, the man who founded the brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont, which functioned as a boiler room and was later convicted of crimes related to stock market manipulation.
Unlike the delay of The Monuments Men, which could be viewed as a lack of faith in the finished product, Paramount’s decision to release The Wolf of Wall Street on December 25 seems to signal that the studio is highly confident in the film and that the delays were indeed a matter of editing problems, rather than a decision to avoid competition. The film’s $100 million budget makes it one of the more expensive awards season hopefuls, making Paramount’s decision to release The Wolf of Wall Street on Christmas all the more meaningful.
Director Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, from Sony’s art-house leaning division Sony Pictures Classics, has been pushed back until 2014, The Hollywood Reporter says. Originally slated for release on December 20, the film was delayed in order to allow filmmakers more time to finish the it.
Starring Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, and Steve Carell, Foxcatcher tells the true story of Olympic wresting champions-brothers Mark Schultz (Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Ruffalo), and their relationship with John du Pont (Carell), the heir to the DuPont chemical fortune. Miller, the director of previous Best Picture nominees Capote (2005) and Moneyball (2011), has been developing the project since 2007, and the film’s original December 20 release date had been viewed as a launchpad for the awards season.
There isn’t much reason to speculate that Foxcatcher has been delayed for any other reason than what Sony and Miller have stated, but the move does put the film on track to have a release in which it might make a better commercial run than what would have been expected from a December 20 art-house opening. Given the film’s bankable stars and the director’s previous commercial success with Moneyball, Sony might have a shot at some significant profits depending on how and when the studio decides to release the film.
Grace of Monaco (The Weinstein Co.)
Originally slated for a November 27 release date that would have primed the film for an awards season run, The Weinstein Co. (NYSE:TWC) instead decided to push the Grace of Monaco back to an undisclosed release in spring 2014, telling The Hollywood Reporter that the film needs more time to be completed.
Starring Nicole Kidman as actress-turned-princess Grace Kelly, The Weinstein Co. had originally planned on releasing the film in time for the 2013 awards season, and Kidman was expected to contend for an Oscar for Best Actress. Written by Arash Amel and directed by La Vie En Rose‘s Olivier Dahan, Grace of Monaco also stars Tim Roth, Paz Vega, Parker Posey, and Frank Langella.
From an outside perspective, it appears that The Weinstein Co. is deciding to hold off on the release of Grace of Monaco more for business reasons than anything else. According to The Hollywood Reporter’s sources, the mini-major is positioning the film for a more commercial entry into theaters, rather than for the awards season. The move certainly doesn’t seem to signal a lack of confidence in the film, as it had a successful showing at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, while studio co-chief Harvey Weinstein has been notably positive on the movie overall.
Instead, with a packed awards season slate including Fruitvale Station, Lee Daniels’s The Butler, The Grandmaster, and the soon-to-be released Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Philomena, August: Osage County, and One Chance, it appears The Weinstein Co. would rather stagger its releases rather than risk cannibalizing the success of its own films.
The Immigrant (The Weinstein Co.)
The Immigrant never officially had a 2013 release date, though not for lack of completion or any other reason. The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and by all accounts seems ready for release any time — but it appears The Weinstein Co. would rather just wait out the heavy awards season field in the same way it has for Grace of Monaco.
The film is a historical drama that takes place in New York City in the 1920s. When Ewa Cybulski and her sister Magda come to America from their native Poland, the sisters are separated at Ellis Island when Magda is found to be sick. Alone on the streets of Manhattan, Ewa falls prey to Bruno, a charming but dangerous man who takes her in and forces her into prostitution.
Directed by James Gray (Two Lovers, We Own the Night) and starring Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner, The Immigrant looks like a surefire critical hit whenever The Weinstein Co. decides to release it, with the studio likely holding the belief that when it comes to art-house fare, the release date isn’t necessarily paramount to success.