Harvey Weinstein has seen great awards success in recent years by utilizing the Thanksgiving corridor to launch or go wide on his Oscar hopefuls. Films like “The King's Speech,” “The Artist” and “Silver Linings Playbook” have gotten off to the right foot in that stretch (“Philomena,” too), and now, “The Imitation Game.”
Morten Tyldum's film, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as computer pioneer and tragic historical figure Alan Turing, opened to $482,000 in four theaters this weekend, a per-theater average of $120,518. That bests “Birdman's” mid-October PTA of $100,000, but “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is still chuckling over all this jockeying for per-theater positioning with its March number of $202,792.
Still, this is right in the Harvey wheelhouse and playbook. He and the film's campaign have been curiously, perhaps smartly quiet since the early festival bows at Telluride and Toronto. Competitors have come and they've gone and “The Imitation Game” has never presented itself as the one to beat. But it may very well be exactly that.
The film went over very, very well at its official Academy screening a few weeks back. Add to that the fact that it took home Toronto's audience award and received an A+ Cinemascore, you begin to understand a very key element about the movie that is relevant to awards season: it plays broadly. Critics will continue to needle it for being too tidy or, still a strange knock to me, supposedly playing hide and seek with Turing's sexuality. But that won't matter much at all in the season. It's a film like “Argo,” like “The King's Speech,” that's easily consumed despite its perceived flaws. It entertains, informs and stands as solid filmmaking in the fray. Those kinds of movies win Oscars, but I feel like I've said that until I'm blue in the face this year.
My feeling is it's sort of between “Boyhood” and “The Imitation Game” for the Best Picture Oscar. I've felt that way for some time but haven't bothered writing it because there were still movies to see and consider. And another one – a major one – drops today: “Unbroken.” That could absolutely be the juggernaut it has always appeared to be on paper. We'll see in a couple of hours.
For now, though, without his usual Oscar campaign personnel, having dropped a record $7 million to acquire the film based on little more than a promo reel out of the European Film Market, Harvey looks to have another serious Oscar player that will play at the box office. Same as it ever was. You have to give it to the guy…
“The Imitation Game” is now playing in limited release.