It’s been six long years since The Weinstein Company landed a Best Picture Oscar-winner, in the form of 2011’s The Artist, but the studio is making a heavy push this season by announcing a trio of awards-friendly release dates.
The Weinstein Company landed a Best Picture Oscar nod at the most recent ceremony in the form of Garth Davis’ drama Lion, and per THR the studio will unveil Davis’ follow-up film Mary Magdalene in limited release on November 24th before expanding in December. Rooney Mara stars as the Biblical figure while Joaquin Phoenix plays Jesus and Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Peter, and Davis reunites with Oscar-nominated Lion cinematographer Greig Fraser. That positions the film for a nice post-festival release date, assuming Davis’ film takes the fall film festival track that so many awards contenders do (Lion was unveiled at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and rode that buzz all the way to its multiple Oscar nods).
The studio has also staked out December 22nd for a limited opening of The Current War, a drama about the battle over the electricity market in the late 1880s between Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon). Me and Earl and the Dying Girl filmmaker Alfonso Gomez-Rejon directs, and the impressive supporting cast also includes Nicholas Hoult as Nikola Tesla, Katherine Waterston, and Tom Holland.
And finally, Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water and Sicario scribe Taylor Sheridan’s directorial debut Wind River will hit theaters on August 4th in limited release, expanding wide on August 11th. This mimics the successful release pattern of CBS Films’ Hell or High Water, which opened on August 12th and became one of the year’s highest-grossing indies while also landing multiple Oscar nods, including Best Picture. Wind River premiered at Sundance to mostly solid reviews and stars Jeremy Renner as a tracker in Alaska who helps hunt for a killer with the help of an FBI agent played by Elizabeth Olsen.
Now, while these dates certainly seem primed for awards attention, TWC has been known to call an audible late in the game. Just last year both The Founder and Gold seemed like solid Oscar plays for TWC, only for the studio to shift both films’ release strategies multiple times before basically dumping them in January after a brief Oscar-qualifying run. If one of the aforementioned films doesn’t stack up in terms of quality, it’s possible TWC could follow a similar scenario.
Can Mary Magdalene, The Current War, or Wind River put them back in winning shape? Having seen Wind River I’d say even a Best Picture nomination might be a longshot there, but Mary Magdalene is a very curious project that I have a feeling might surprise a lot of folks. We’ll find out for sure, but with Steven Spielberg back in the game and folks like Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson releasing new films this year, competition will be fierce.