Could Focus be priming ‘Boat’ for Oscar?

Posted by · 11:56 pm · June 26th, 2009

Rhys Ifans in The Boat That RockedVariety’s Pamela McClintock and Ali Jafaar are reporting tonight that Focus Features will distribute Richard Curtis’s “The Boat That Rocked,” rather than parent Universal, and instead of the originally planned August 28 release date, the studio has pushed it to November, right in the middle of the Oscar season.

The article notes the fact that Focus is “more adept at marketing less commercial fare” as reason behind the move, but it also notes “Focus prexy James Schamus said his team is working with Curtis to trim about 20 minutes from the film, which originally ran 129 minutes. A chief complaint from critics was the film’s length.”

You’ll recall, the film took a pretty big critical shellacking upon release in the UK in the spring.  It also failed to light up the international box office, pulling in, as McClintock and Jafaar note, a mere $25.1 million against a $50 million budget.  But while everything is certainly a business maneuver in this industry, one can’t help but wonder whether Focus is thinking, with a thin Oscar slate going into the fall (though animated feature “Coraline” is sure to pop up in the animated field), “Boat” could be whipped into an awards contender.

Of course, any studio that may have seen itself on the bubble from far away has a fighting chance with the Academy’s decision to open up the Best Picture category to 10 nominees.  Going into the season, Focus has the Coens’ “A Serious Man” and Ang Lee’s “Taking Woodstock,” but the latter isn’t aimed at awards while the former takes the 2006 Oscar champs back to contemporary black comedy territory — not exactly Oscar bait.

Knocking 20 minutes off a film is significant.  That kind of thing could change both the structure and the impact of a film.  It’s a bigger cosmetic shift that the post-festival cut some features undergo before theatrical release, that’s for sure.  Perhaps now there’s another contender to add to the pile.

→ 15 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

15 responses so far

  • 1 6-27-2009 at 12:22 am

    Rob said...

    No chance in hell. It’s terrible and lacks any real plot. It’s not funny and milks those sixties cliches to death. Nice sixties costumes though. Buy the soundtrack instead of a movie ticket, you’ll feel less cheated.

  • 2 6-27-2009 at 12:35 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Like I said, 20 minutes is significant…

  • 3 6-27-2009 at 12:55 am

    Nudgoo (still can't decide on a handle here...) said...

    I liked the movie, but it would have worked much better as a six episode sitcom (which, knowing Curtis, would have been great). That’s what it felt like while I was watching it.

  • 4 6-27-2009 at 1:48 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Indeed, a 20-minute shave can only help the unholy mess that is the film’s structure, but there’s nothing they can do about its dated, insufferable tweeness. Granted, that might go down better across the pond, but the idea of the film being an awards contender horrifies me.

    By the way, if you’re having trouble deciding on a handle, might I suggest your real name? ;)

  • 5 6-27-2009 at 2:37 am

    Nudgoo said...

    Maybe if the 20 minutes they cut is 20 minutes of people dancing while listening to the radio (did they really do this in the 60’s?) then it could only be a better film.

    As I said, I liked the film, but it could have been so much better. It’s begging for a TV spin-off.

  • 6 6-27-2009 at 4:34 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Geez I guess I really am alone in absolutely loving this film. I had such a good time and the second time I brought around my father and my brother they were flabbergasted too. They absolutely adored it.
    Sure I can see the flaws, but it was just so much fun!

  • 7 6-27-2009 at 5:15 am

    William Goss said...

    The original release date was 8/28, but they didn’t want to go up against contenders like Halloween 2 and Final Destination 4…

  • 8 6-27-2009 at 11:20 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Because obviously they’d be fighting for the same audience….

  • 9 6-28-2009 at 12:49 am

    Rob said...

    I think Guy nailed it there. Dated and very twee. No amount of cuts can save it, It’s just not very good. At all.

  • 10 6-28-2009 at 11:52 am

    jess said...

    Is Hoffman lead in this ?

  • 11 6-28-2009 at 11:55 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Not really, no. Very much an ensemble effort.

  • 12 6-28-2009 at 3:36 pm

    RichardA said...

    Well, 10 nominees is a large number to fill…

  • 13 6-28-2009 at 4:15 pm

    Mark said...

    I wouldn’t discount Biutiful as Focus’s big awards push. Inarritu may have another great movie up his sleeve.

  • 14 6-28-2009 at 5:09 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    “Well, 10 nominees is a large number to fill…”

    Is it really?

  • 15 6-30-2009 at 4:58 pm

    JoesBO said...

    I actually think the reason here is clear. Focus moved ‘The Boat’ to some later time and instead put Taking Woodstock into that August 28th slot, two weeks later than its original August 14th slot. I think Taking Woodstock is their pony. It had a lot of competition on the 14th but faces practically none from the two horror films on the 28th. The result is one of the few truly open slots left in the fall for Taking Woodstock.

    While two weeks isn’t a lot, two weeks closer to the end of the year is still two weeks closer. While it didn’t get nom’d, they were decently successful with The Constant Gardener on the same weekend a few years ago.

    So, I think their horse is clear in Taking Woodstock and they wanted to give it the best date possible, which meant moving ‘The Boat That Rocked.’