It's going to be a crowded marketplace for movies over the next two months. Studios have been saving all of their heavy-hitting awards contenders for end-of-the-year releases, and one of the most intriguing titles on that list is Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty about the Navy SEAL manhunt for Osama bin Laden. Sony was the studio that landed the star-studded film, and while they haven't backed down from pushing for its awards potential, they are taking an unusual tactic toward releasing it.
The film was originally supposed to open everywhere on December 19. That's not happening anymore. It will open in Los Angeles and New York on that day (which it needs to do to qualify for an Oscar), but it won't expand into new markets until January 4, 2013-- and even then it's only going to branch out to 10 or so other cities. We'll then have to wait a week before it goes national on January 11, 2013.
Giving a potential Oscar film this kind of L.A./NYC-only release isn't uncommon, but it is a bit rarer for a major studio to take a major movie and slowly expand it like this. The hope behind it is that they'll build word of mouth all along the way, so by the time the rest of the country gets it, everyone will be dying to see the latest military thriller from the director of The Hurt Locker. And if the movie is any good, it'll probably play out exactly like that, but it still stinks that most of us now have to wait until 2013 to see one of the most anticipated movies of 2012.
Zero Dark Thirty's release date shift has also affected a few other films, which have now moved away accordingly. The Seth Rogen/Barbra Streisand comedy The Guilt Trip has swept in to claim the vacated December 19 date, which means it's hitting a week earlier now. In turn, the Christopher Walken/Al Pacino/Alan Arkin old-guys crime comedy Stand Up Guys slid back a few weeks to get out of Sony's new box office path and will now release on February 1, 2013.
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