Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘The Master’ now opening Sept. 14

“The Master” has decided to arrive earlier than planned.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s highly anticipated drama starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams was originally set for an Oct. 12, 2012 limited release. Anderson and The Weinstein Company (the distributor for the independently produced feature) have now changed their strategy and are opening in limited release on Sept. 14 with subsequent expansions the following weeks.

After “The Master” wasn’t included in the initial Toronto Film Festival and Venice Film Festival announcements, it was assumed the picture might hold off till the New York Film Festival.  There was also scuttlebutt it could screen at Fantastic Fest where Anderson previously debuted “There Will Be Blood” in 2007. The new date seems to hint that the awards season player could instead be a late addition to either Venice and/or Toronto in the weeks to come.

By going this early, Anderson and the Weinstein Company may be considering the competition rather than a premier awards friendly release date.  Traditionally, an early or mid-September release is seen as too early for a true best picture contender.  However, the September release schedule is currently has little competition on the art house circuit which could help set “The Master” up for a better financial return in the long run.  If the film turns out to be up to Anderson’s quality standards it could look for critic groups to give it a promotional push in December.

In moving “The Master” to September, The Weinstein Company has now effectively switched dates with Andrew Dominiki’s “Killing Them Softly.”  That Brad Pitt Thriller will now open on Oct. 19.

Summit Entertainment currently has “The Perks of a Wallflower” debuting in limited release on Sept. 14 after its Toronto premiere. It would not surprise if the Lionsgate division decided to push back away to avoid a direct confrontation with “The Master.”