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Why 'August: Osage County' Is Moving Off Its Christmas Opening

Thompson on Hollywood By Anne Thompson and Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood December 17, 2013 at 4:35PM

The Weinstein Co. confidently debuted John Wells and Tracy Lett's entertaining no-holds-barred R-rated film adaptation of the Pulitzer and Tony-winning stage hit "August: Osage County" at the Toronto Film Festival. Since then TWC has been working their SAG and Golden Globes magic, but the movie hasn't been getting love from year-end critics groups. (So far it's at 67% on Metacritic.) The Weinsteins already pulled back from a wide to a limited Christmas break and are switching things up again, moving those engagements back two days to December 27. Why?
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Julia Roberts in "August: Osage County"
Julia Roberts in "August: Osage County"

The Weinstein Co. confidently debuted John Wells and Tracy Lett's entertaining no-holds-barred R-rated film adaptation of the Pulitzer and Tony-winning stage hit "August: Osage County" at the Toronto Film Festival. Since then TWC has been working their SAG and Golden Globes magic, but the movie hasn't been getting love from year-end critics groups. (So far it's at 67% on Metacritic.)

Initially slated to go wide on December 25 at the height of the holiday period, "August: Osage County" was quietly pulled back to a limited New York/Los Angeles Christmas run, with a plan to go wide on January 10. Now the Weinsteins are switching things up again, moving those engagements back two days to December 27.

Why? It happens to be the first day for Oscar nomination balloting, which allows TWC to maximize their ad expenditures towards that date in NY/LA. And this way the wide break will parallel the January 12 Golden Globe Awards and the January 16 Oscar nominations, which should hopefully boost the movie's want-to-see with audiences, who will be attracted by an all-star cast including likely Best Actress Oscar nominee Meryl Streep as well as Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard and Misty Upham.

The darkly humorous dysfunctional family drama has to open for a week before year's end in order to qualify for the Oscars, of course, but a smaller break could yield larger initial numbers. And waiting a few days for the Christmas big guns to get out of the way allows the Weinsteins to maximize their weekend grosses. Also, booking good screens is an issue during this prime playing time. There's also less risk of quick mixed word-of-mouth hurting their first few days--the film could yield a huge opening day, but might fall off quickly. Better to have those numbers included in a three-day weekend total to more impress exhibitors as TWC tries to book their January 10 dates.

This move will also will make the New York and L.A. Times reviews more prominent. And the wide delay also allows for new dates for timely biopic "Mandela" (around 800 has been announced as the goal) and more room for awards-friendly "Philomena" to play through in some cities.

No one knows how to fine-tune a release like the Weinsteins. But this also suggests far less confidence in 'AUgust: Osage County" than did that initial wide break. Truth is, the critics could do some damage to this movie, which is a crowd-pleaser but is up against a lot of year-end competition. 

This article is related to: Weinsteins, The Weinstein Co., Weinstein Co., The Weinstein Company, August: Osage County, Meryl Streep, Meryl Streep, Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, Awards, Awards Season Roundup, Awards, Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.