Sony Classics brings ‘Foxcatcher’ into the Oscar season

Over the past few months, we’ve had a lot of queries from readers as to the release plans for Bennett Miller’s star-studded, stranger-than-fiction biopic “Foxcatcher.” The film has long looked like prime Oscar fodder, but it wasn’t clear who would be distributing it, or whether it would be released this year at all. Back in June, Kris pondered its prospects, mentioning the possibility that the film could wind up as part of Sony Pictures Classics’ 2013 awards slate.

And so it is. The speculation ended today with Sony Classics’ announcement that they will be distributing “Foxcatcher,” with a release date set for December 20.

You may wish to adjust your Oscar predictions accordingly. Both Miller’s previous features wound up in the Best Picture race: his 2005 debut “Capote” was also a Sony Classics property, while 2011’s “Moneyball” was distributed by Sony’s larger studio, Columbia. Clearly, it’s a happy partnership, as Miller acknowledged in his official statement:

“I’ve been discussing ‘Foxcatcher’ with [SPC heads] Michael [Barker] and Tom [Bernard] since I began researching the story in 2005 and it’s always been my hope and expectation that they would distribute the film. Their passion and understanding of what ‘Foxcatcher’ could be and their ability to market unique and complex films makes SPC the ideal home for me. They were great partners on ‘Capote,’ and I’m thrilled to be back with SPC,”

The news puts the film in rather a desirable awards-season position. It has the prestigious exclusivity of a leading independent label, but with the profile and cast — Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carell, Vanessa Redgrave and Sienna Miller — of an A-list studio feature. Its other credentials are similarly impeccable: the prodigious Megan Ellison produced, Dan Futterman (an Oscar nominee for “Capote”) co-wrote the screenplay, while remarkable Australian cinematographer Greig Fraser (“Bright Star,” “Zero Dark Thirty”) is behind the camera.

Tatum and Ruffalo play brothers and Olympic wrestling champions Mark and Dave Schultz, whose relationship with eccentric chemical company heir John du Pont (played by Carell) ends in murder. It’s fascinating material that presents rich dramatic opportunities for all its principals — particularly Carell, cast conspicuously against type here.

Sony Classics have every reason to feel bullish at the moment, what with surprise hit “Blue Jasmine” (a surefire Best Actress vehicle for Cate Blanchett) and “Before Midnight” being the two art house stories of the summer. They now have a heavyweight Christmas prestige release to look forward to, but is this bad news for their smaller properties? For the record, the company’s recent Best Picture nominees include “An Education,” “Midnight in Paris” and “Amour” — which last year turned a late-December release to its advantage.

Are you happy to see “Foxcatcher” making the 2013 calendar? And do you smell an Oscar threat? Tell us in the comments.