Oscar History

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William Holden in Picnic

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Attack of The December Glut 

I shall honestly try not to complain about the studios weird habit of shoving everything into one month of the year this year. I shall honestly try! I know the complaint is as tired as their inability to think outside of the Christmas Box. This post is brought to you by tonight's news that Sony Pictures Classic will open Foxcatcher, the true crime story of Olympic wrestler brothers and the schizophrenic who murdered one of them, the same day as their other Oscar hopeful The Past (December 20th) from Oscar winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi. This post was also brought to you by the sorry news that Spike Jonze's fascinating looking Her was recently pushed back to December, too, despite looking like a perfect fall title... like a Lost in Translation kind of moodpiece that could really use some air on both sides of it to breathe a little in the imagination.

Herewith the current schedule for the last month of the year so save up your pennies and let your friends and family know you won't be available for their parties and reunions because Hollywood is greedy-greedy-greedy and Scrooge-like. They want ALL your money and your time at the tail end of the year. Unless you wanna just wait until February and try to catch up after the Oscar nominations. That's so much less fun, damnit! See, I'm not a velvet rope kind of person. I don't believe in exclusivity when it comes to the movies. I want everyone invited to the Oscar discussion party. Not just people who do showbiz as their work or have lots of free time in December and happen to live in New York or Los Angeles. (sigh)

two musicals kick off holiday movie season: Black Nativity and Frozen

Thanksgiving Weekend
GRACE OF MONACO - expanding in December
MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM - expanding in December


December 6th
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS -- expanding for Christmas

Dave and Mark Schultz... to be played by Mark Ruffalo & Channing Tatum in "Foxcatcher"December 13th
AMERICAN HUSTLE --expanding for Christmas
SAVING MR BANKS -- expanding for Christmas

December 18th-20th
HER -- going wide in January  
THE PAST  -- expanding in January
FOXCATCHER  -- expanding in January 

December 25th
LABOR DAY -- expanding in January 
THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (Ralph Fiennes directing) -- expanding in January 

That's it. That was my last ever rant this year about December glutting!

The point is to really embrace and enjoy the serious movies that open before the holidays. They are rare beasts that deserve your love. In fact, go pledge yourself to Blue Jasmine again!

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Reader Comments (23)

Nat, Ralph Fiennes already had a directorial debut two years ago, it was Coriolanus. You even gave Vanessa Redgrave your Film Bitch award for Best Supporting Actress for that film.....

August 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

It's so frustrating. And not only for the American audiences, for us in Europe too. Most of your 'award season' movies will only get here by February.

Oh if I had a say...

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

And given that they'll probably campaign hard for already-established best actress hopeful Blanchett and this one (assuming Foxcatcher is their main pony in the race), that probably means Before Midnight and The Past will deserve less consideration which is a shame because with the lead race so open, I hoped they'd push for Benerice and Delpy harder...

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

The sad part is that only two to three of these movies will be any good. Hollywood always aims high and then repeatedly strikes out. Grace of Monaco has yet to release a trailer. Mystery meat.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnna Farris

They're all going to get eaten alive. What are they thinking? A few will get scared and move up to October/November...right? Please? It's going to be especially tough for the small ones to get screens--I assume that's why Grace of Monaco and the Mandela movie are going early? But still. If any of these movies think they're winners--instead of just going for the nomination morning celebration--they should pop into late October. Seriously.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJake D

The strategy for August: Osage County is interesting. If it premieres at TIFF and people like it, why not just release it in October or Thanksgiving? People do not need to wait until Christmas to pay to see a good movie. Conversely, if Grace of Monaco is some delicate hothouse flower, go back to the limited Christmas strategy and pray for some awards recognition for Nicole.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStitch

And that's not even including all the small and tiny movies that get released during the time in some foolish attempt at "awards buzz". It rarely ever works out that way. And then, too, there are titles like THE RAILWAY MAN (playing Toronto) that'll likely get picked up and planted into awards season.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

A December/January release was good between 2001-2004 but never since. Talk about slow learners.
2012 Argo (October)
2011 The Artist (November)
2010 The King's Speech (November)
2009 The Hurt Locker (June)
2008 Slumdog Millionaire (November)
2007 No Country for Old Men (November)
2006 The Departed (October)
2005 Crash (May)
2004 Million Dollar Baby (December/January)

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYonatan

It truly is a disservice to the industry to crowd all these films into December. How can you really care about awards season when most of the films won't even be seen by audiences until the awards are distributed. For that matter why go to the theater when all the "losers" will be out on DVD a week later. No anticipation.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Nate, who is in the photo with his back to the camera?

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark

This phenomenon amounts to lazy marketing and the distributors' lack of faith in the films. If you notice, at least half of these films look like probable flops that would quickly be forgotten if released at any other time of the year. The also-rans are mixed in with actual prestige films that will make back their budgets regardless (The Hobbit, Monuments Men and--albeit on a smaller scale--The Past).

I get the impression, for instance, that Saving Mr. Banks would be a nice family-friendly diversion if released in June. It would make a tidy $80-90M and slip beneath the radar. No Oscar nominations. No "best-of" lists. However, a Christmas release date guarantees that it will at least be in the conversation.

And because of the surge in moviegoing around the holidays, some of these so-so films end up becoming surprise hits (or at least eek out a profit). As soon as it screened for critics in 2011, We Bought a Zoo was out of the Oscar race, but it still managed $75M from its Christmas perch.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterW.J.

The Hurt Locker as a June release has to do with the fact that movie was making the rounds in major festivals that seemed like FOREVER and then it finally got a distributor in the States, best known for the Twilight franchise. I actually saw The Hurt Locker because when it was clearly getting a lot of critical notice Summit Entertainment actually decided to give the movie another run in theaters in December. The movie is such an outlier the way Silence of the Lambs was an outlier (released in FEBRUARY), a movie that was not actively seeking awards attention, had a director who was working her way back into the business, and with a subject matter that was labeled hands-off by other studios.

"The strategy for August: Osage County is interesting. If it premieres at TIFF and people like it, why not just release it in October or Thanksgiving?"

Yes, to all of this. A Midwestern family quarrel of dark secrets over the dinner table at a get-together would play so much with the Thanksgiving season. Then again, I am a disturbed mind who totally applauded The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's 'The feel BAD movie of Christmas' tagline.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

What I would like to know is whose bright idea it was to release "Labor Day," a movie set during the titular holiday weekend, on Christmas? It's absurdly counter-intuitive.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

I love how The Hurt Locker remains an outlier on the Oscar release list (Of course, its distributor did not know how to release it because everybody is still scared of contemporary war movies and it was playing at festivals all the way back in 2008). Always fun when you have one of those years when a movie that was never seeking awards attention just gets rewarded for good filmmaking.

"The strategy for August: Osage County is interesting. If it premieres at TIFF and people like it, why not just release it in October or Thanksgiving?"

I mean a large Midwestern family get-together with family quarrels and dark secrets being revealed in a hurricane of dysfunction over a chicken dinner. It does really sell itself as more of a Thanksgiving movie.

"What I would like to know is whose bright idea it was to release "Labor Day," a movie set during the titular holiday weekend, on Christmas?"

Well it is premiering at TIFF **close enough** around that weekend.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG


August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark Johnson

I would certainly prefer to have some of these movies coming out in November or October, but if you look at the release schedule for those months, they're pretty jam packed too. It's the same problem that we've seen this summer with too many big blockbusters piled up on top of each other, only here it's movies whose entire business model depends on breathless Oscar hype instead of CGI robots pummeling each other. As it is, most people won't see most of these movies until January or beyond, and since the new releases foisted on us during that stretch are usually bottom of the barrel, that's mostly a good thing. It's only a problem if you get caught up in the year end hype cycle, which obviously many of us do, but should resist. Just go with the flow and stuff like that and enjoy the movies.

Also, I guess the release schedule here is just obvious Oscar bait movies? Because there's also Anchorman 2, Lone Survivor and a half dozen other wide release movies coming out around Christmas, so it's actually even worse (better?) than the list here suggests.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

mark - stock photo to illustrate fibbing

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

Nathan, you have such a way with words. You perfectly expressed how I feel about this annual cinematic feasting. On the one hand, it gives this time of year, beginning with the first fall chill, an air of excitement and expectation. But the problem comes in with scarfing down all that Oscar bait. There's always a chance of a getting a rusty fish hook in the mouth. Or suffering the consequences of overindulgence as seen in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. Hmmm, the price of holiday gluttony.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

The bad news for these films is that, as others have said, the December release strategy has flopped majorly in recent years.

The worse news for us as audiences is that a number of these films appear like legitimate Best Picture contenders, making it likely we'll be doomed to more years of this should the late releases perform well at the Oscars.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Is that Channing's Oscar bait?

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Jaragon, there's a worm joke there somewhere, but I'll reel it in.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

There's also "47 Ronin" & "Medea's Christmas". Oddly, there's not one that I'm really looking forward to. "Osage" might be great, but I think that the casting was simply corrupt. Roberts should of been the lead in "War Horse" and then retired.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

The thing, this release pattern DOES work for films that end up with awards. The problem is with all the films it doesn't work for that get lost in the clutter that don't the time or the space to breathe amongst the more high profile titles.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

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