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« Lukewarm off the Presses: Little Waspy Wonder Women | Main | Beauty vs Beast: Gold Medal Mamas »
Monday
Jul022018

Release date shuffle. The backloading begins with "Boy Erased" and "On the Basis of Sex"

by Nathaniel R

Ah.... statue lust. It invariably shoves everything into the last two months of the year. This just in: Focus has pushed back both of its key contenders this year: Boy Erased, the gay conversion drama, is moving the beginning of its platform release from September 28th until November 2nd and On the Basis of Sex, the biopic on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is moving its limited launch from November 9th until December 25th. Though pushing back a little seems kind of wise for On the Basis of Sex (put a little distance between yourself and RBG) Christmas seems like a step too far. Or is that just me? 

We expect a few more Oscar contenders to push back into December. Why? Well, despite statistics being in favor of releasing in October or November if you'd like to win e--  The Shape of Water (2017) was actually the first Best Picture winner to begin its release in December since Million Dollar Baby (2004) -- common beliefs are hard to shake and Hollywood has long viewed a December berth as the be-all and end-all of awards strategies. There is a good reason for that though we hate to admit it: despite December being tough for Best Picture wins in the modern era (momentum needed!) it is and basically always has been easier to get nominations if you release in December. Try to imagine, say, The Post, being nominated last year had it come out in September. It doesn't happen. But in December it had so much pre-release hype as an assumed frontrunner that it was able to weather lukewarm precursor attention and snag the nod.  

Wings (1927) the first best picture winner. It still holds up. For fun here's a list of when every Best Picture ever first opened in theaters excluding festival debuts obviously. (Some of the dates are a bit fuzzy, of course, that's especially true for ye olden times when listings are harder to come by and sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between event premieres and the actual beginning of a platform release...

BEST PICTURE WINNERS with OPENING DATES 

 

  1. Wings (1927/1928) - August 12th
  2. The Broadway Melody (1928/1929) June 12th
  3. All Quiet on the Western Front (1929/1930) April 21st
  4. Cimarron (1930/1931) - February 9th
  5. Grand Hotel (1931/1932) - April 12th
  6. Cavalcade (1932/1933) - April 15th
    Oscar then moves to the full calendar year for its eligibility rules. From here forward the ceremonies take place in February or March (but in those first six years they were all over the place in terms of timing.)


     
  7. It Happened One Night (1934) - February 22nd
  8. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) - November 8th
     Best Picture sizes are still in flux and varying each year at this point but with the addition of the Supporting categories, 5 becomes the annual no-exceptions size of the acting categories.
  9. The Great Ziegfeld (1936) -September 4th
  10. The Life of Emile Zola (1937) - August 11th
  11. You Can't Take It With You (1938) - September 1st
  12. Gone With the Wind (1939) - December 15th (though it didn't reach people outside Georgia, NY, and LA until January 1940)
  13. Rebecca (1940) - April 12th
  14. How Green Was My Valley (1941) - October 28th
  15. Mrs Miniver (1942) - June 4th
  16. Casablanca (1943) - January 23rd
    The Academy moves to the 5 Best Picture nominee tradition after 16 early years with lots of different category sizes (and not just in Best Picture)
  17. Going My Way (1944) - May 3rd
  18. The Lost Weekend (1945) - November 29th
  19. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) - November 21st
  20. Gentleman's Agreement (1947) - November 11th
  21. Hamlet (1948) - September 29th
  22. All the King's Men (1949) - November 8th
  23. All About Eve (1950) - October 13th
  24. An American in Paris (1951) - November 11th
  25. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) - January 10th
  26. From Here to Eternity (1953) - August 5th
  27. On the Waterfront (1954) - July 28th
  28. Marty (1955) - April 11th
  29. Around the World in 80 Days (1956) - October 17th
  30. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) - December 14th


    Gigi begins an astonishing run for the movie musical (in terms of Oscar. 5 Musicals will win from 1958-1968
    Around about this time April becomes the dominant month in which to hold Oscar ceremonies (April stays in power for a long time) 
  31. Gigi (1958) - May 15th
  32. Ben-Hur (1959) - November 18th
  33. The Apartment (1960) - June 15th
  34. West Side Story (1961) - October 18th
  35. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) - December 10th
  36. Tom Jones (1963) - October 6th
  37. My Fair Lady (1964) - October 21st
  38. The Sound of Music (1965) - March 2nd
  39. A Man For All Seasons (1966) - December 12th
  40. In the Heat of the Night (1967) - August 2nd
  41. Oliver! (1968) - December 10th
  42. Midnight Cowboy (1969) - May 25th
  43. Patton (1970) - February 4th
  44. The French Connection (1971) - October 9th
  45. The Godfather (1972) - March 24th
  46. The Sting (1973) - December 25th (the first Christmas day release to win!)
  47. The Godfather Part II (1974) - December 12th
  48. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) - November 19th
  49. Rocky (1976) - November 21st
  50. Annie Hall (1977) - April 20th
  51. The Deer Hunter (1978) - December 8th... but it took a long time to reach general public as it didn't go wide until February 23rd
  52. Kramer Vs Kramer (1979) - December 19th
  53. Ordinary People (1980) - September 19th
    Around about this time late March becomes the dominant time to hold the ceremony
  54. Chariots of Fire (1981) - September 25th... but one of the turning points, we'd wager in the awful soon to be popular thing of making regular audiences wait until the Oscars to see it. It wasn't really wide until April 9th AFTER it won Best Picture. Boo! Boo! We say.
  55. Gandhi (1982) - December 10th
  56. Terms of Endearment (1983) - November 23rd
  57. Amadeus (1984) - September 19th

    Out of Africa kicks off 2 plus decades of "Oscar has no memory" complaints -- so many December winners from 1985 through 2002!
    Not sure what happened but right around this time The Academy gets VERY December focused and the only disruptions come from Summer releases.  
  58. Out of Africa (1985) - December 18th
  59. Platoon (1986) - December 19th
  60. The Last Emperor (1987) - December 18th
  61. Rain Man (1988) - December 16th
  62. Driving Miss Daisy (1989) - December 15th
  63. Dances With Wolves (1990) - November 9th
  64. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) - February 14th --yes it was released before the previous year's Oscars were even held.
  65. Unforgiven (1992) - August 3rd
  66. Schindler's List (1993) - December 15th
  67. Forrest Gump (1994) - July 6th
  68. Braveheart (1995) - May 24th
  69. The English Patient (1996) - November 15th
  70. Titanic (1997) - December 19th
  71. Shakespeare in Love (1998) - December 3rd
  72. American Beauty (1999) - September 15th
  73. Gladiator (2000) - May 5th
  74. A Beautiful Mind (2001) - December 21st
  75. Chicago (2002) - December 10th
    Late February becomes the new norm for Best Picture ceremonies with occasional first week of March ceremonies. At about this time it becomes harder to win when waiting for December to show yourself to the world. 
  76. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) - December 17th
  77. Million Dollar Baby (2004) - December 15th
  78. Crash (2005) - May 6th
  79. The Departed (2006) - October 6th
  80. No Country For Old Men (2007) - November 9th
  81. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) - November 12th

    The expanded Best Picture nomination era rules begin

    The Academy changes the Best Picture system from 5 to 10 nominees for Best Picture after years of outcries about blockbusters and genre pictures being shut out in favor of indies and dramas. 
  82. The Hurt Locker (2009) - June 26th
  83. The King's Speech (2010) - November 26th
    The Academy changes the system once again. Now Best Picture is 5-10 nominees depending on whether a film receives a threshold percentage of #1 votes. It's mathematically possible in this system to have anywhere from 5 to 10 nominees but there have, to date, been no years that were not either 8 or 9 nominees wide, with 9 being far more common (only 2 of the 7 years under this system have had Best Picture shortlists that totalled 8 films).
  84. The Artist (2011) - November 25th
  85. Argo (2012) - October 12th
  86. 12 Years a Slave (2013) - October 18th
  87. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) - October 17th
  88. Spotlight (2015) -November 6th
  89. Moonlight (2016) - October 21st
  90. The Shape of Water (2017) - December 1st
  91. ???? (2018) -????

 

 

So when's the best time to release a Best Picture winner?

Well obviously it depends on the film itself. Sometimes December is your only option towards a nomination (No way does, like, The Post get nominated last year without that late year release) but winning is different. Statistically...

Of all the Academy's Best Picture winners throughout history 23 have been released in December, 17 in November, and 12 in October (by far the three most popular months accounting for 57% of all Best Picture wins). The most troublesome time to release a Best Picture hopeful? That's January or March (i.e. when the previous year's Best Picture race is still in full swing), and perhaps oddly July; only twice in history have each of those months produced winners.

If you restrict it to just the modern Best Picture era which we'd argue is smarter because we don't live in the 1950s or 1980s or whatnot, things are different. We'd argue that the modern Best Picture era begins around 2003. That's when the ceremony committed to being earlier and soon the rules themselves were totally in flux and between 2009 and 2011 they experimented and came up with a whole new set of Best Picture rules.  If you stay in that spread of years (2003-2017) the stats are different and suggest that October and November are by far your best bets; together they account for 66% of the wins in this new era.

AND AS A REMINDER
Here's the current schedule of Oscar hopefuls this coming fall.

SEPTEMBER
This month feels mostly empty this year (missed opportunity?) but for the following films which aren't really expected to be in Oscar play but you never know.

14th The Children Act, White Boy Rick

21st Life Itself

28th Old Man and the Gun

OCTOBER
If A Star is Born, Beautiful Boy, and First Man all deliver they could dig in deep as LOCKED-UP NOMINEES which helps a lot in the noise noise and more noise of Oscar race. You can become hard to shove aside if you entrench your position! The only drawback, nervous distributors might counter, is that you don't feel as "fresh" when it comes time to pick winners. 

5th A Star is Born

12th Beautiful Boy, First Man, What They Had

19th Can You Ever Forgive Me, Mowgli

NOVEMBER
Crowded but a potentially great placement for Widows in particular. 

2nd Bohemian Rhapsody, Boy Erased, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Suspiria

9th Peterloo

16th Fantastic Beasts 2, Widows

21st Creed II, Wreck-It Ralph 2

23rd The Favourite 

DECEMBER
All of these films below plan to come out PLUS likely any last minute beloveds that reveal themselves at the fall festivals and then scramble for a date. Movies that have yet to announce dates include but are not limited to: If Beale Street Could Talk, Everybody Knows, The Sisters Brothers, The Best of Enemies, At Eternity's Gate, Gloria, Red Joan and The Aftermath

5th Capernaum (Lebanon's assumed Oscar entry)

7th Mary Queen of Scots, Under the Silver Lake

14th Backseat, Mortal Engines

21st Alita Battle Angel, Aquaman, Cold War (Poland's assumed Oscar entry), and Welcome to Marwen

25th Mary Poppins Returns, On the Basis of Sex

YES YES I KNOW I NEED TO UPDATE THE OSCAR CHARTS THIS WEEK. ON IT VERY SOON.

 

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Reader Comments (19)

Very interesting. Always interesting to read the tea leaves when it comes to release dates. It's not just you on the Dec 25 release date for On the Basis of Sex, which does not feel like a great idea for a Christmas release (why not wait a year if you want to avoid RBG's shadow?). Excited to start getting early buzz word of mouth on some of the films you listed.

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

RBG was an unexpected commercial success. Perhaps the move to Christmas goes along with Focus' thought process that it could be both an awards player as well as a viable commercial box office success. Of their four films (BlacKkKlansman, Mary Queen of Scots, Boy Erased, On the Basis of Sex) Basis seems the most commercially viable.

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMG

Look at "Casablanca" there, hanging out with trashy horror movies!

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Does a December release date bode well for a coattail nominee in supporting?

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Jenkins and Manville both happened, so I dont see why not.

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMG

Casablanca debuted in NYC in December 1942, right? So it's a bit of a straddler, like Last Tango and Cries and Whispers later on, which got nominated in terms of their LA release dates.

This article is one of many great distillations of why I love you, by the way.

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Don't push back to December! It spelt disaster for A Most Violent Year (a masterpiece) mind you. Let the movie get better with age of a few months in time with the voting.
When will THE WIFE get out? The only thing we need to do is get Glenn Close her Oscar!

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSTFU

STFU -- "The Wife" is being released in August

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

NICK -- yes that's true now that you bring it up about Casablanca but I think even that is confusing to people. It's not the straggler we see now which means its brand new. It came out in dec/jan 42/43 and then won the oscar for best of 43 in 44.... so it was a year in everyone's consciousness so i thought it was more appropriate to go by the oscar release date in that case

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

It's interesting to see that An American in Paris (1951) and The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) were released within less than two months of each other. A similar window for Dances with Wolves (1990) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) happened, so consecutive Best Picture winners were probably atop the box office at the very same time!

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

From memory, CASABLANCA was released in New York in December 1942 but not in LA until January 1943. Around that time there were a few films whose releases straddled two years like that so they won NYFCC awards in one year and Oscars the next.

Also don't forget that in the 1950s and 60s, a lot of Best Picture winners (and nominees) were roadshow releases. So their 'release date' was only the start of *very* limited screenings in LA and probably NY that were designed to be like going to the (legitimate) theatre: with printed programs, premium prices, overtures, intermissions and only a daily matinee and evening session. It could be up to a year before these epics and musicals rolled out to regular theatres around the country.

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

Boy Erased's move makes more sense when you remember THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST is scheduled to come out just a month before BOY's original release date.

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Mareko: Yeap, in deed Lamb and Wolves did shared the top 5 for several weekends at the BO. Even more they were from the same studio Orion Pictures.

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterChatan

i'm off to the studios to pitch my sad baloo movie :Can You Ever Forgive Me, Mowgli

and the tagline for a NAMBLA movie: Beautiful Boy, First Man, What They Had

July 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterpar

Do we not remember the last time Focus pushed a Felicity Jones movie to Dec 25, only to see it completely buried and forgotten? this date change does not bode well for her.

July 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

Felicity Jones is just a bit older than RBG when the latter was the sole dissenter during the Ledbetter case. Excited to see that but I wanna see the movie do beergate. Script, anyone?

July 3, 2018 | Registered CommenterPaolo

I just can't believe On the Basis of Sex will be an awards contender. Felicity Jones looks like a kid playing dress-up in that photo. And Mimi Leder's previous films don't inspire much confidence.

July 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

So are these theatrical releases in the US? Haven't The Wife and The Children Act been seen in the UK? Would love to have Emma and Glenn battle it out on Oscar night.

Looking forward to Life Itself (too bad it's the same name as the Roger Ebert biopic from a couple years ago). Love Dan Fogelman (the American answer to Richard Curtis) for all his sappy, yet utterly delightful works like Tangled, This Is Us, and Galavant.

@Suzanne - Right? Not a fan of FJ's performances.

July 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Yes very interesting ! Thanks for the work ! Well wouldn't it be great if the Academy Awards were simply just about THE BEST of the the year ??? What's with the members long term memory.. don't they get all the nominated movies on DVD in any case ? I actually wanted to ask gallantly when your 1st June predictions will get ruffled up a bit just for the fun of it ... ?

July 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

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