Whether you caught his previous films Hunger and Shame or only heard all the jokes about Michael Fassbender's penis, there's plenty of reason to look forward to director Steve McQueen's upcoming third film, 12 Years A Slave. It's a huge departure for the visual-artist-turned-director, bringing back Fassbender in a supporting role but primarily focusing on Solomon Northrup, a man played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who was living as a free black man in pre-Civil War upstate New York when he was kidnapped and forced into slavery. Sure, that's a grim story, but with a cast that includes Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Beasts of the Southern Wild's Quvenzhane Wallis, The Wire's Michael K. Williams and other luminaries, it ought to hit hard.
Now some early buzz confirms our high expectations. Deadline reports that distributor Fox Searchlight has been testing the film and earned fantastic audience response, which has inspired them to give Slave an even better Oscar season release date. It had originally been scheduled for December 27, but now the studio will begin a "limited platform release"-- meaning it will open in a handful of theaters at a time until it's eventually everywhere-- on October 18.
Why is October 18 better than December 27? Let's look at examples from last year's Oscar season to explain it. Opening in mid-October last year was Argo, the Best Picture-winning juggernaut that also made a fortune at the box office; the post-Christmas week of December, on the other hand, marked the debuts of trickier Oscar hopefuls, like the tsunami drama The Impossible or Michael Haneke's Amour. All three of them went on to awards success, and relative box office success too; but October is the time when movies have to compete with studio blockbusters (like last year's Skyfall or Paranormal Activity 4). There are blockbusters released on Christmas Day, of course, but the post-Christmas release date assumes that movies will spend the quiet early January running off good word-of-mouth and awards nominations-- with little chance at a big box office splash, that's often the best they can do.
So with 12 Years A Slave now coming October 18, we can now assume that Fox Searchlight hopes it will perform much better with bigger audiences than Hunger (opened 12/5/2008; less than $150,000 total domestic cross) or Shame (opened 12/2/2011; $3.9 million total gross). Is Steve McQueen about to become as big a household name as Steve McQueen? He's at least on the right track.
Staff Writer at CinemaBlend
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