If you don't believe awards season runs 365 days a year look no further than the news today that Alcon Entertainment has acquired the U.S. rights to “The 33.” Based on the Copiapó mining accident in 2010, the new drama centers on 33 minters who were trapped for 69 days in a collapsed copper-gold mine in Northern Chile. Their plight captured the attention of the world and, surprise, Hollywood came calling. Independently financed by Phoenix Pictures and Half Circle, “33” is being distributed in Chile by 20th Century Fox, but not in the U.S. The news Alcon came on board and Warner Bros. will distribute makes this a somewhat unusual story.
Alcon announced that WB will release “The 33” on Nov. 13 which is smack dab in the middle of Oscar season. Warner Bros. marketing and publicity teams have three other films that are expected to be awards players; Scott Cooper's “Black Mass,” Jeff Nichols' “Midnight Special” and Ron Howard's “In the Heart of the Sea.” The studio also debuted impressive footage from Ryan Coogler's “Creed” at CinemaCon last week which could have an awards-worthy turn by star Michael B. Jordan. Throw in assumed below the line campaigns for George Miller's “Mad Max: Fury Road” and Joe Wright's “Pan” and its easy to see how busy the WB team may be. So, why would Alcon pick up “The 33” and throw it into this combustible mix let alone open it against the second weekend of “SPECTRE” and “The Peanuts Movie”?
Directed by Mexican born filmmaker Patricia Riggen, whose best received work was 2007's “Under the Same Moon,” the first teaser for “The 33” plays like an old fashioned tearjerker centered around miner Mario Sepúlveda played by Antonio Banderas. The rest of the cast includes notable names such as Juliette Binoche, Gabriel Byrne, Adriana Barraza and Rodrigo Santoro. But, it also features less prestige friendly actors including Lou Diamond Phillips and James Brolin which would make any studio exec raise an eyebrow. Even after watching the preview the movie just seems hard to peg. Is it a tearjerker that could be a counter programming play? Are Alcon and WB hoping to reach Hispanic audiences that have helped turn Lionsgate's Pantelion Films partnership into a profitable venture with hits such as “Instructions Not Included” and “Cantinflas”? Or, have Riggen and producer Mike Medavoy (“Black Swan,” “Zodiac,” “Shutter Island”) fashioned a critical surprise? We hope it's the former. Alcon has made smart moves with “The Blind Side” and “Prisoners,” but they must still be smarting from the miscalculation of releasing “The Good Lie” during a similar time frame.
As for 20th Century Fox, it's not surprising they didn't pick up U.S. rights. The studio already has Alejandro González Iñárritu's “The Revenant,” Ridley Scott's “The Martian” and David O. Russell's “Joy” as potential awards players. Fox Searchlight has John Crowley's “Brooklyn,” Luca Guadagnino's “A Bigger Splash,” Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” and there are reports they will soon pick up Cannes player “Youth” from filmmaker Paul Sorrentino. Clearly, the last thing the Fox family needs is another potential awards player to deal with this calendar year.
Check out the international trailer for “The 33” below. Does it smell like an awards player to you?