Well, that was fast. Late on Tuesday, the news dropped that Sony was pulling George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men” from the release calendar. Yesterday, Kris, Greg and I speculated as to when the film would (or should) open in 2014. Today, we got our answer — and, as Clooney hinted when the news initially broke, the all-star WWII story will indeed be a February release. Deadline revealed that the film has been set for February 7, 2014, booting Sony’s “Robocop” remake to February 12 instead.
One of Sony’s remaining 2013 Oscar hopefuls, “American Hustle,” is also affected by the shuffle: it will now go into wide release on December 18, five days after its limited opening.
Yesterday, we speculated that a February release for “Monuments Men” may tie into a Berlin Film Festival premiere — is that still a possibility? The German fest kicks off on February 6, meaning the only way the film can have its world premiere there is as the Opening Film, one day before its US release. That seems an overly tight window, though an international premiere at Berlin — in or out of competition — is now a strong possibility.
Either way, the film looks to be more or less emulating the path set by Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” in 2010. Bumped from the 2009 Oscar race by Paramount, the twisty psychological thriller instead premiered at Berlin in February and opened a few days later. Reviews were heavily mixed, and the film was all but forgotten when the 2010 awards season rolled round. (It’s the only Scorsese film since 1999’s “Bringing Out the Dead” not to score a single Oscar nod.)
But that hardly matters given how the public embraced it: “Shutter Island” raked in over $128 million, making it the highest grosser of Scorsese’s career. We can only speculate, but chances are the film wouldn’t have performed quite so well in the more crowded fall frame — Paramount made a smart move in recognising that the genre film wasn’t necessarily awards fodder, but did have strong adult appeal, and would be welcomed by audiences starved for high-spec entertainment at a time of year when studios tend to dump their least appetizing fare.
Could “The Monuments Men” benefit similarly from the move, providing solace to filmgoers who have just finished watching this year’s batch of Oscar players? By placing it in February, Fox and Sony are perhaps admitting that the film — the comic aspects of which were foregrounded in its first trailer — is more of an audience romp than a heavyweight prestige drama, but there’s no shame in that. And in a funny way, it can still benefit from this year’s awards race: with Clooney and ensemble member Cate Blanchett likely to be red-carpet fixtures for the next few months (for “Gravity”/”August: Osage County” and “Blue Jasmine” respectively), the cross-promotional possibilities are significant. There is, however, the question of whether the Winter Olympics — which also kick off on February 7 — will compete for its audience.
In further explaining the move to Deadline (and angrily dismissing The Wrap’s allegations that he admitted to tonal problems with the film), Clooney himself makes the “Shutter Island” comparison, but also indirectly aligns the films with Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s” series:
“When we started this movie, we said all along this was something we wanted to do in the tradition of ‘The Guns Of Navarone’ and ‘The Great Escape.’ That’s what we wanted all along and we took the date because we’d had so much luck on it with ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ and ‘Ocean’s Twelve.’ We wanted it to play through the holidays. Last night we had a nice meeting and said, let’s be honest. We’re not going to get our effects done in time. As hard as we’re working, the truth of the matter is, we only started principal photography on this in March. So the idea we’d have all the effects ready was a stretch anyway. And we didn’t make it. It’s that simple. It’s certainly not about tone of the film, because it’s testing through the roof. We said, let’s just find a spot where the movie can find an actual audience instead of fighting with 22 other films in December.”
Will you be seeing “The Monuments Men” on February 7? And do you think Clooney and the studios have done the right thing? Tell us below.