The Weinstein Company has announced Fall release dates for three of the most anticipated films on the 2014 docket, all of which have been strategically placed in the thick of awards season. But is the calendar written in ink? Don't bet on it. TWC is notorious for opportunistically moving dates as they see fit. Where, for example, is "The Giver" going to wind up.
Toronto hit "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby" (September 26, 2014, limited) is a two-part love story seen through the eyes of both sides of one couple, played by Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy. Costarring a dreamy cast including William Hurt, Viola Davis, Isabelle Huppert, Ciaran Hinds and Jess Weixler, the film is written and directed by feature-debut helmer Ned Benson.
The original version of "Eleanor Rigby" clocked in at over three hours, but a two-hour cut will play Cannes' Un Certain Regard -- where the Weinsteins frequently situate their prior fest acquisitions a la "Precious" and "Fruitvale Station" -- this May. It's possible we won't see the three-hour version in theaters. (Our TIFF interview with Chastain and Benson is here.)
"The Imitation Game" (November 21, 2014, limited) is Morten Tyldum's eagerly awaited follow-up to "Headhunters." It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as famed British mathematician, cryptologist and computer scientist Alan Turing, who spearheaded the charge to crack the German Enigma Code in WWII. His personal life -- rife with then-illegal homosexual acts -- conflicted with his intellectual life. Written by Graham Moore, it costars Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode. The Weinsteins took a leap of faith with this one, snatching up the film at Berlin after viewing just a few snippets of footage.
And finally comes Tim Burton's new biopic "Big Eyes" (December 25, 2014), which is based on the true story of midcentury painter Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), who stirred an art controversy when it was revealed that his eerie paintings were actually created by his wife Margaret (Amy Adams). Written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, it costars Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman and Terence Stamp. This looks to be more of a return to the territory of 2003's "Big Fish," which nabbed an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score.
Approach with caution. When it comes to a release calendar, never trust the Weinsteins, who shuffle their films around like pieces in a puzzle to leverage awards cache.
See two recent examples: TWC may let go "Grace of Monaco," the Cannes opening night film starring Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly. It was supposed to hit last November, got moved to March due to a crowded and contentious awards season, and is now off the release calendar following tussles over final cut with director Olivier Dahan. The filmmakers may be seeking a more enthusiastic US distributor. (The buzz-building battle is intensifying.)
Meanwhile, after a rigamarole of recuts and conflicting desires, Bong Joon-ho's post-apocalyptic sci-fi "Snowpiercer" is finally hitting theaters June 27. All in the game, alas.
Also on the TWC calendar is Lois Lowry adaptation "The Giver," starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep, set for August 15 -- that's the "Butler" slot, toward the end of the summer in hopes of an easy box office take. But don't be surprised if the Weinsteins push this back, either. Festival and critics' darling director Phillip Noyce notably wrestled with Miramax at the time of "The Quiet American" (2002), which eventually did pick up a Best Actor nom. They've obviously kissed and made up. And a smart awards strategy often turns a movie into a hit before hitting the awards trail. We shall see.
TWC's first awards hopeful of the summer, "Tracks," starring likely Best Actress contender Mia Wasikowska, opens stateside in just a few weeks on May 23 as the Cannes Film Festival comes to a close. It's off to the races.