Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty remains one of the biggest potential contenders in this year's awards season, but now most audiences won't have a chance to get a look at it until next year. The film has been set for a wide release on December 19, but now Sony has shifted that to a limited opening in just New York and Los Angeles, with a slowly expanding wide release to start on January 4.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, there might be a financial reason behind this beyond the need to lessen the crush of holiday releases. Sony, which has been enduring some money problems according to reports, won't have to count the marketing costs for Zero Dark Thirty until 2013, which could help them better sort out the balance sheets for this year. The January wide release could also equal bigger box office. While December is crammed with movies appealing to adult audiences, from Judd Apatow's This is 40 to the Seth Rogen comedy The Guilt Trip to the splashy musical Les Miserables, January is a more traditional dumping ground for releases that wouldn't get audiences otherwise. People who burn through all the holiday releases and wind up in January looking for something else will likely be happy to catch Zero Dark Thirty as opposed to fellow January 4 release Texas Chainsaw 3D.

Though, this January is looking unusually strong-- Ruben Fleischer's Gangster Squad will be opening just a week later, on January 11, and there's also the arrival of the intriguing horror film Mama. Maybe January will no longer be the dumping ground it always was treated as, and could host movies that need a little more room to breathe than the packed holiday season. With Zero Dark Thirty still eligible for awards consideration, it could become a serious heavyweight if the buzz picks up and it winds up with January virtually to itself.

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