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Sundance hit 'Fruitvale' to land in theaters in July, not October

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The critical darling of this year's Sundance Film Festival will arrive in theaters sooner than expected.

"Fruitvale," which won the festival's Grand Jury and Audience awards in January, is set to hit the big screen on July 26 -- three months before it was initially slated to debut at the box office. The Weinstein Co., which purchased the drama for $2 million at Sundance, quietly changed the film's release date last month.

Starring newcomer Michael B. Jordan, "Fruitvale" is based on the 2009 shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, an African American who was killed by a BART transit police officer in Oakland. The movie received rave reviews when it screened at Sundance, inspiring early Oscar buzz. Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who had his directorial debut "Don Jon's Addiction" play at this year's fest, tweeted this after seeing the film:

#Fruitvale Best Picture 2013 #Oscar #Sundance

— Joseph Gordon-Levitt (@hitRECordJoe) January 24, 2013

The move to July is somewhat unconventional, given that award-season contenders are typically released between October and the end of the year. Eight of the nine best picture nominees at the 2013 Academy Awards hit theaters during that three-month time period, and the only Oscar contender that came out earlier in 2012 was "Beasts of the Southern Wild," another Sundance favorite that debuted in June. 

The Weinstein Co. is no doubt hoping to replicate the success of "Beasts" -- which also earned an Oscar nod for director Benh Zeitlin and actress Quvenzhané Wallis -- or other past rare summertime critical darlings like "Little Miss Sunshine" or "Midnight in Paris."

“We want to take advantage of the counterprogram slot in the summer,” said Erik Lomis, the independent studio's head of theatrical distribution. “It’s a very powerful movie and it has a chance to catch the zeitgeist in a more effective way. And there are certainly plenty of films that have come out in the summer that have gotten end-of-year accolades.”

ALSO:

Sundance 2013: Weinstein Co. buys 'Fruitvale'

Sundance 2013: 'Fruitvale' wins Grand Jury Prize

Sundance 2013: Ryan Coogler on pain, passion in making 'Fruitvale'

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amy.kaufman@latimes.com

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