When I interviewed Clint Eastwood in June about the status of “American Sniper”— the much-ballyhooed movie he stepped in to direct after Steven Spielberg stepped out — Eastwood said that he not only had already finished shooting the movie but hoped it would be ready by the end of the year. On Tuesday, Warner Bros. confirmed that timetable. “Sniper” -- the fact-based, Bradley Cooper-starring tale of a sharpshooting Navy SEAL killed by a troubled veteran — will hit theaters on Christmas Day and expand on Jan. 16, the studio said.
The scheduling move is notable for several reasons. It makes the film a late entrant into the upcoming award season (whether it will be finished in time for a fall fest or two, such as AFI or the New York Film Festival, remains to be seen). It means that after the recent “Jersey Boys,” Eastwood will have two movies in the same calendar year (that last happened for the prolific director in 2008 with “Changeling” and “Gran Torino”).
And Cooper will now have a shot at being nominated for an Oscar three straight years. (Incidentally, that’s happened only to nine male performers in history—to the likes of Marlon Brando and Gary Cooper—and last occurred in 2001 when Russell Crowe completed the hat trick.)
The move also comes with, and perhaps sets off, a series of other changes from Warners. With “Sniper” now gong wide on Jan. 16, the spy remake “Man From U.N.C.L.E” is being moved off that date all the way to Aug. 14 next year, while another remake, the surf stoner do-over “Point Break,” will move up slightly so it can have more breathing room, from Aug. 7 to July 31.
Though only a limited release, “Sniper” won’t exactly have a clear path on its new date. Also debuting in theaters Dec. 25 are prestige plays such as “Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes” and Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken,” and broad entertainments “Into The Woods” and “Hot Tub Time Machine 2.” And “Annie” and “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” will have been in theaters less than a week.
There’s been something of a game of release-date musical chairs for fall films lately. Yet another movie “Sniper” will jostle with for film fans’ attention on Christmas is Seth Rogen’s North Korea comedy “The Interview”; That film was recently rescheduled for the high-profile date from Oct. 10.
Shortly after, the Brad Pitt World War II drama “Fury” was moved up to Oct. 17 from its initial date on Nov. 14. A lot of movies over a short period of time—and now, thanks to Eastwood’s brisk work pace, one more.