We are in the thick of the awards season and right at the crucial moment where campaigns are in full gear and spin is thrust in every which way in last ditch efforts to save face. It’s right about this time every year when the Oscar races are starting to take shape, but everything is still fluid before the eventual Academy Awards nominations whittle it all down. And while films like 12 Years a Slave and Gravity and American Hustle all appear as solid competitors, because nothing is set in stone yet, the hope arises for dark horse competitors to come in and seize the day, films that perhaps don’t have the weight of frontrunner status to be overwhelmed by. That’s exactly where a film like August: Osage County is currently residing.It’s been a bumpy season thus for August: Osage County, John Wells’ all-star adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize winning play. Especially considering the pedigree attached it – Letts’ adapted his play of a bickering, squabbling family with the likes of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts starring, George Clooney and Grant Heslov (Oscar-winners of last years’ big winner Argo) producing, with awards season maestro Harvey Weinstein pulling all the strings. Yet the film took a back road on it’s way to theaters and now is but the scruffy underdog of the season, this despite earning three Screen Actors Guild nominations including one for Best Ensemble Cast as well as Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice nods for stars Streep and Roberts.
The trouble began first when the film was moved from its original Thanksgiving weekend release date to the far-more crowded Christmas Day. The next phase came when the film made its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival last September to muted, mostly ho-hum reviews. The film generated a notch of unwanted bad press when news reports made issue of a change in the ending to the film, a change at which many of the play’s most ardent admirers scoffed. Now, within a week of it’s Christmas Day release, The Weinstein Company is again altering the August: Osage County course. Instead of going wide on December 25th, the film will platform in New York and Los Angeles and expand nationwide of January 10th. It’s certainly nothing new for distributors (especially The Weinstein Company) to alter release dates; however, it’s slightly askew to do it so in such proximity to its expected release, especially in the thick of a very competitive awards season.
The reasoning is strategy, purely and simply. By quietly releasing the film, The Weinstein Company hopes to build a deeper demand for the title as it goes wide in the beginning of January. August: Osage County will still qualify for this year’s Oscars, but the hope for those behind the film is that it will have a higher profile release out of the Christmas rush and be fresher on the minds of awards voters. Whether the effort will work or not remains to be seen, as does, for a few more weeks by the general public, August: Osage County.