In an unexpected move, Warner Bros. announced Tuesday that “Live By Night” will receive an early Christmas Day release to qualify for this year’s awards season. The gangster film, Ben Affleck‘s directorial follow-up to his 2012 Best Picture Oscar winner “Argo,” will have a nationwide roll-out as previously planned on January 13 (watch trailer above).
Such late-season entries are not unusual. Warners has done this with two other films with great success. Back in 2004, “Million Dollar Baby” (released Dec. 15) won four Oscars: Best Picture, Director (Clint Eastwood. ), Actress (Hilary Swank) and Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman.) And Eastwood’s “American Sniper” opened on Christmas Day 2014 and picked up six Oscar nominations including a Best Picture bid. Last year “The Revenant” opened in limited release on Dec. 15 before a wider release in January, reaping a leading 12 nominations with wins for director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio and lenser Emmanuel Lubezki.
Affleck adapted Dennis Lehane’s 2012 crime novel and plays the son of a police captain who becomes a racketeer in Florida during the 1920s. The film co-stars Oscar champ Chris Cooper (“Adaptation”), Sienna Miller (“Foxcatcher”), Chris Messina (“The Mindy Project”), Zoe Saldana (“Star Trek”), and Elle Fanning (“Trumbo”).
While genre films often have a difficult time at the Oscars, gangster films have been an exception, particularly with “The Godfather,” “The Godfather Part 2” and “Goodfellas.” Now that Warners has placed “Live By Night” into the awards race, the studio clearly has confidence in its award chances. Given Affleck’s Oscar history with “Argo,” that looks like a good bet.
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