And another one, as they say, bites the dust. Well, for this year, anyway. Most Oscar pundits had George Clooney’s WWII adventure “The Monuments Men” placed fairly prominently on their prediction lists, and with the unveiling of a high-toned new trailer last week, the all-star attraction seemed primed for the season ahead. That is, until Sony Pictures dropped the bombshell that the film would not be ready for release this year after all. “The Monuments Men” thus becomes the highest-profile film so far — following others like Sony Classics’ “Foxcatcher” and The Weinstein Company’s “Grace of Monaco” — to bow out of the awards race before it’s begun.
Is it the right move? Obviously, it’s hard to say until we see the film itself. Clooney’s official line is that they need more finishing time for the effects and score on this large-scale production, which may well be the case. Though perhaps Sony simply has a different future in mind for “The Monuments Men” as the studio readies for a season that, between “Captain Phillips” and “American Hustle,” will certainly still keep them busy.
With all that in mind, we thought this development merited closer scrutiny in another round of 3 on 3. We consider the implications of this movie both for the film and its competitors, and suggest what its best course of action might be next year.
Who benefits the most from “Monuments Men” moving to 2014 in terms of awards?
Gregory Ellwood: Everyone. This is arguably one of the most competitive Best Picture races in years. Every time a picture drops out it simply means the remaining contenders have a better shot at landing a nomination. In terms of individual films, “August: Osage County” will benefit from having Clooney, who produced the drama, no longer competing against himself and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which may also qualify for what has become the “entertaining period drama” slot.
Guy Lodge: Well, it goes without saying that every contender benefits from the field being one film less crowded, especially in a year this heavy on studio prestige fare – though we have no idea yet, of course, whether “The Monuments Men” would have been a major or minor player in the game. If you want to be really schematic about it, you could say that a film like, say, “The Book Thief” can take advantage of the “Monuments Men” demographic – though the race is never quite that tidy. “Captain Phillips” and “American Hustle” will now have even more of Sony”s campaign muscle behind them. And I suppose “Blue Jasmine” now gets Cate Blanchett”s undivided attention, not that her campaign needs much extra help.
Kristopher Tapley: One word: Sony. Money may be coming from Scott Rudin on “Captain Phillips” and “American Hustle” may have its ducks in a row with outside Oscar consultation but these movies plus “Monuments Men” would have meant a lot of heavy lifting from staff at the studio. Lighten the load and the rest of the slate benefits a bit, I think, so while Oscar consultants on films like “Dallas Buyers Club” and “August: Osage County” can exhale knowing the path is just a little clearer, publicists at Sony can also wipe their brow and know they can focus that much more on their two other big awards plays.
Who benefits the most from “Monuments Men” moving to 2014 in terms of box office?
Gregory Ellwood: “Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “Saving Mr. Banks” and “American Hustle.” All three films are currently going into wide release in time for the Christmas frame and are targeting the same over 25 audience. That’s a lot of ticket buyers to try and convince to see two movies (let alone three or four) over the busy holidays. History says there are going to be some big misfires over the holidays (there always are), but “Monuments Men” moving now saves itself or a competitor from a potentially scary debut.
Guy Lodge: Perhaps the answer is “The Monuments Men” itself? We”ve seen before how upscale, adult-skewing fare can reap the rewards of moving out of awards season to a place in the calendar where audiences are traditionally starved for classy mainstream entertainment – “The Great Gatsby,” once predicted to be a bomb, did very nicely for itself this spring, while nearly four years ago, “Shutter Island” became the highest grosser of Martin Scorsese”s career by moving to the wasteland of February. If “Monuments” has the storytelling goods to match its all-star cast, audiences will find it in a quieter month.
Kristopher Tapley: I think the move gives Clooney’s other holiday release, “August: Osage County,” as well as Sony’s platforming-through-the-holiday “American Hustle” more room to breathe, but I agree with Guy. “Monuments Men” itself might be the answer. It could have been dominant during the holiday but in a February pattern (if that’s where it indeed ends up going), it has a shot at landing big outside the fray. And perhaps the residual whiff off the season vis a vis Clooney’s involvement in “August” will help “Monuments” gain even more traction if it releases right in the middle of phase two of this year’s Oscar season in February.
Should “Monuments Men” release in February or another time of year?
Gregory Ellwood: In theory, a world premiere at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival in February would be thematically appropriate and a U.S. release could follow right after. The problem is that this February features another edition of the Winter Olympics. The viewing audience for the Olympics and “Monuments Men” are eerily similar. March 7 is also a possibility, but then “Monuments” is risking losing older males to “300: Rise of an Empire.” March 14 already has four wide releases currently scheduled. March 21 has both “Divergent” and “Muppets Most Wanted” on deck. March 28 makes sense if you don’t mind going up against an epic version of “Noah.” With April just as rough it might make sense for Sony Pictures to throw one out of the old school ’00s release playbook and pitch it as a major summer release. Sure, it’s an older cast, but as alternative fare to the superhero blockbusters it might have a great chance at finding a substantial audience.
Guy Lodge: Unless you”re an auteur with the aura and mystique of a Terrence Malick, I tend to think that the longer you wait, the more people will suspect you”re hiding something – so a first-half debut would probably be for the best. (If it turns out to be a fun audience movie with minimal awards potential, there”s no shame in that; if it”s something more, it won”t be forgotten with all those names attached.) Ordinarily, a February debut following a Berlin premiere would make sense, but as Greg points out, it”s a month of unusual distractions. Perhaps it”d be better to follow the “Great Gatsby” path with a splashy Cannes premiere – it”d make a handsome festival opener – swiftly followed by a May release?
Kristopher Tapley: I have no idea what the film really is so it’s hard to say. February is a bit under-used for this kind of film and there are success stories (like “Shutter Island,” noted above). It could be a fun spring entry that would obviously be a lot different from the surrounding product. But I’m not a box office expert. Greg makes fine points re: the Olympics so I’d maybe glom onto that and the Berlinale.
What do you think? Has “The Monuments Men” done the right thing by jumping to next year? And who stands to gain most from the move? Share your thoughts below.