If ever there was a doubt that Warner views Ben Affleck’s next directorial effort, Argo, as a potential Oscar contender, it was removed by this recent bit of release-date news.

Affleck’s political thriller has shifted its opening date from Sept. 14 to Oct. 12, according to Deadline. It’s not a drastic shift, by any means, but it does move Argo out of the mid-Toronto Film Festival slot (where Affleck recently opened his Oscar-nominated The Town and places it deep into the heart of Oscar-screening territory. I’m still willing to bet that, so long as its ready, Warner brings Argo north of the border to TIFF for a splashy premiere.

The Argo shift also affects Ruben Fleischer’s anticipated The Gangster Squad, a return to 1940s crime noir that stars Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Nick Nolte and Sean Penn as gangster Mickey Cohen. Fleischer’s follow-up to the hit comedy Zombieland was down for Oct. 12, but Warner now plans to move it and will “get a release date shortly” according to Deadline’s piece.

Both films sound like they have awards potential, for sure, and it will be up to Warner to find the right slot for Fleischer’s crime saga so it doesn’t get lost in the Thanksgiving-Christmas crunch that tends to swallow up the end-of-the-year theatrical programming. Right now, the big dogs on the 2012 calendar include such potential blockbusters as The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, the return of James Bond in Skyfall, and a slew of major December titles. We’ll see where Gangster Squad lands, now that Argo has staked its claim.

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