Open “Zodiac” :eter

From: Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere. To: Dreamamount publicity/ marketing. Re: An open letter about the selling of David Fincher‘s Zodiac (currently set for release on 1.19.07).

Greetings and salutations, guys: I’m writing to ask what the upside is in not platform-releasing Zodiac at the end of December, which is what certain Dreamamount parties are apparently against at this stage. A late December release, obviously, will put Zodiac into the derby and make it eligible for whatever possible critic awards and or Academy nominations that may result. This, obviously, would fortify the 1.19 general release to some extent.
Not putting Zodiac out as an ’06 platform end-of-December release strikes me as nonsensical, certainly from the standpoint of Zodiac‘s admirers or from the stand- point of any kind of opportunistic, fair-shake approach to creative marketing. Very clearly, going out cold on 1.19 without the buildup of a December platform opening isn’t going to help.
Zodiac is, I’m hearing, a serious quality-level piece. It’s also a longish cerebral procedural, a ’70s period drama, a non-conventional cop thriller. It needs some media massaging to help prime the pump.
The word around town is that there are two reasons that certain parties with Dreamamount may be against the platform-release idea:
(a) Dreamamount will have four films in Oscar contention by the end of the year (Flags of Our Fathers, Dreamgirls, Babel, World Trade Center) and some p.r. and marketing people think that a fifth film in the hopeful-Oscar-pipeline will strain the resources of Dreamamount marketing/publicity and cause this or that film to receive less of an Oscar push effort in terms of manpower and/or ad dollars, and…
(b) DreamWorks honcho David Geffen wants an all-out, balls-to-the-wall Oscar push for Dreamgirls, which is his personal baby, and he doesn’t want to hear about a fifth film potentially sapping the energy or marketing budgets allocated for Dreamgirls push.
What does Paramount/DreamWorks think about all this? What do readers think? Is there merit to the David Geffen theory? This issue has been festering for a long while and I’d like to get some reactions from all corners.

26 thoughts on “Open “Zodiac” :eter

  1. Fuck Dreamworks/Paramount for doing this. It’s absolutely disgusting that they would withhold a movie for a few weeks just to make sure it doesn’t get in the way of Dreamgirls and Flags of Our Fathers, which I think have been way overhyped. The film that most real film-lovers want to see is the new David Fincher film and I want to see it as soon as possible. Besides, the audience for Zodiac is completely different than the other two films and the Oscar votes that would’ve voted for those two films will do so anyway. The only films that Zodiac would effect in the Oscar race are the smaller, edgier films like Little Children and The Fountain.

  2. to T.H-
    That’s robert downey jr…
    Jeff I think it good you are questioning dreamworks but you don’t really know what’s going on, you can only assume what’s going on.

  3. Oscar Shmoscar. A movie that is hyped as an Oscar candidate is automatically sketchy to me anymore. It all smacks of pandering to Oscar voters so marketing campaigns can be puffed up and polished and has little to do with whether a movie is any good or not. I can just imagine the interesting wrinkles being ironed and the sharp edges being softened so as not to offend the Academy. Boring. Here’s hoping Zodiac is simply too good and interesting to have an honest shot at a nomination and the studio is just acknowledging this. Then again, maybe it stinks. Either way, the only thing we can tell from the studio’s release strategy is what the marketing stooges and bean counters think of it. Who cares?

  4. Dreamamount already has a fifth Oscar contender and that’s THE PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER… based on the worldwide bestseller by Patrick S? and directed by Tom Tykwer (RUN LOLA RUN) – It’s gonna open in limited release December 27th.
    I can’t believe you don’t have it on your radar…
    You can watch the German trailer here:
    http://www.parfum.film.de/

  5. i typically loathe movies that seem primed for Oscar bait, and I’m sick of the “marketing budgets for Oscar campaigns”. I realize we don’t live in an idealistic society, but what ever happened to a movie being released because it’s good, and then discovering that people want to bestow awards on it?
    Memoirs of a Geisha was a movie I felt that should have just been honest and during the end credit crawl, should have had an image of the director and everyone else with their hands out, just waiting for the awards.
    Sadly, the film wound up winning some of those awards.
    All the King’s Men looks like the latest act of Oscarbation. Maybe I’ll catch it on video. But give me Zodiac or The Fountain any day over movies like Geisha and King’s.
    Then again, when is the Best Picture of theyear actually the best picture of the year?

  6. NYcriticS,
    I can refute that.
    Paramount’s in a tough spot because what they’ve paid for is a long, thoughtful period piece that doesn’t have an especially satisfying resolution and no real movie stars when they probably thought they were getting Son of Se7en. Critics will love the film, especially the under 45 crowd who have been watching Fincher develop as a filmmaker from an MTV punk to his generation’s Kubrick but there’s no way on earth the same people who marked off Crash on their ballots last year are marking off Chronicles this year or any other year. Imagine if anyone else on earth other than Spielberg (and all that comes with him) had made Munich and now imagine how many Oscar nominations that film gets.
    Unfortunately Chronicles is likely doomed to fail upon its initial release only to become cherished once it√ɬ¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s out on dvd. I made the comparison to Heat in my AICN review that Jeff linked to back in June and it wasn’t just to get the fanboys worked up into a frenzy. The film’s something of an ungainly beast and it’s not easy to get your arms around it. You really need the film to just sit with you and let it play out at its own pace. It really doesn’t hit you just how good the film is until you realize how drained you are from watching it later in the day.
    Paramount likely realizes that the film’s not a button pusher like Flags of our Father or Dreamgirls and is trying to minimize its losses. I do think it’s foolish to not at least open it for a weekend in late December as it’s the best work of Gyllenhaal’s career and the film would likely be well represented on year-end 10 best lists. Ideally (for the film, not for all the impatient people waiting to see it) they would hold the film till the fall of 2007 and build upon critical praise to try and overcome slow box office and a genre that is not known for being awards bait (as was done w/ LA Confidential by Warner Brothers). Ultimately though the film belongs to the era in which it’s set. It’s too unique and uncompromising to fit in with all the cookie cutter “Oscar films” that the studios are putting out and will sadly get lost amongst the mix. Or put another way, if Paramount made The Conversation in 2006 they’d treat the film the exact same way.

  7. Perfume? Are you nuts? Its foreign language and it will have an insignificant box office. Cinephiles certainly love Tykver, but the Academy has never recognized him for anything he’s done.

  8. Everyone who’s seen PERFUME agrees that the movie delivers… It will open in Europe in September and October, we’ll see…

  9. Did I miss the point at which David Fincher became an Academy favorite? There was a sound effects editing nomination for “Fight Club” and an editing nomination for “Seven.” That doesn’t make him any more or less of a fanboy God, but he’s never had a film that even generated serious talk for any major Oscar nominations. If you release a Clint Eastwood or Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese movie in the fall, people automatically start talking about Oscar. Fincher? Not so much.
    Actually, not so much for Scorsese either, since I’ve heard rumors that The Departed isn’t playing in Toronto. GEEZ!
    Maybe Paramount/DreamWorks just figures that “Zodiac” isn’t the kind of film that they can get nominations for. Maybe that’s because it’s too quirky and artistically challenging and they figure they’re better off with the more obvious and broad pleasures of “Dreamgirls” and “Flags of our Fathers.” I’ll eat my hat if either of those movies has anything even vaguely quirky or challenging about them, but they could still be good movies.
    On a side note… Am I the only one who thinks that the first 50 minutes of The Game is just about as good as anything Fincher has ever done? Or possibly better? I can always watch that movie until just about when the game truly begins. Then it gets silly in a hurry…
    Daniel

  10. Also, they woudn’t pick December 27th as the release date if they didn’t think the movie has nomination potential…
    And before PERFUME will open in the US the academy members will know about the huge amount of money this movie will have made in Europe…

  11. My guess is that David Fincher has crafted a movie that doesn’t fit into the mold of a Oscar movie and Dreamamount wants to release where they know it doesn’t have a chance at grabbing Oscar nominations/wins.
    I just hope that it’s not because the movie stinks, since we all know that January-April is generally a pretty barren time of the year.
    I’m betting that by Halloween, Thanksgiving at the latest, that we’ll know for sure. By then, pretty much all of the contenders will have been seen and Dreamamount will know for sure whether they should give Zodiac a limited release in late December.
    Don’t forget that up until the middle of November 2004, WB thought that Alexander was their Oscar hopeful. In the space of a week, Alexander went down in flames and Million Dollar Baby practically came out of nowhere to position itself as the leading Oscar contender.

  12. It’s a shame. By burying Zodiac in January, Dreamamount as virtually guaranteed that it is ignored by critics and ’07 Academy voters [not that they have much relevance]. It seems Fincher will never get the mainstream acclaim he deserves. Perhaps it’s for the best — keep nurturing his demons.
    Oh, and I’m sure Dream(works)girls is a piece of shite. I like Condon, but it stinks like stale Chicago.

  13. Fincher’s work has never screamed Oscar in the past. Why now?
    Also, that other famous serial killer Oscar winner, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, opened it Feb. and that didn’t excatly hurt it.

  14. Oscar Shmoscar. A movie that is hyped as an Oscar candidate is automatically sketchy to me anymore. It all smacks of pandering to Oscar voters so marketing campaigns can be puffed up and polished and has little to do with whether a movie is any good or not. I can just imagine the interesting wrinkles being ironed and the sharp edges being softened so as not to offend the Academy. Boring. Here’s hoping Zodiac is simply too good and interesting to have an honest shot at a nomination and the studio is just acknowledging this. Then again, maybe it stinks. Either way, the only thing we can tell from the studio’s release strategy is what the marketing stooges and bean counters think of it. Who cares?

  15. You can scratch World Trade Center from any serious list of Oscar contenders. I’m astonished by the free ride many critics have given that tripe. Worst “prestige” film I’ve seen this year.

  16. Did I miss the point at which David Fincher became an Academy favorite? There was a sound effects editing nomination for “Fight Club” and an editing nomination for “Seven.” That doesn’t make him any more or less of a fanboy God, but he’s never had a film that even generated serious talk for any major Oscar nominations. If you release a Clint Eastwood or Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese movie in the fall, people automatically start talking about Oscar. Fincher? Not so much.

    Actually, not so much for Scorsese either, since I’ve heard rumors that The Departed isn’t playing in Toronto. GEEZ!

    Maybe Paramount/DreamWorks just figures that “Zodiac” isn’t the kind of film that they can get nominations for. Maybe that’s because it’s too quirky and artistically challenging and they figure they’re better off with the more obvious and broad pleasures of “Dreamgirls” and “Flags of our Fathers.” I’ll eat my hat if either of those movies has anything even vaguely quirky or challenging about them, but they could still be good movies.

    On a side note… Am I the only one who thinks that the first 50 minutes of The Game is just about as good as anything Fincher has ever done? Or possibly better? I can always watch that movie until just about when the game truly begins. Then it gets silly in a hurry…

    Daniel

  17. Seems fishy. Zodiac feels like an Oscar movie to me. Fincher is a very respected director and everyone was just waiting for him to make that film that finally gets him awards. This feels like the one. It’s a period piece based on a true story. The three main actors, Gyllenhaal, Downey Jr. and Ruffalo, are all high caliber and previously nominated for something or other. Whatever. Fincher rules and this one is a must see for anyone who knows the score.

  18. The feeling I get from people is that awarding Crash was maybe the last nail in the Oscar coffin. People do not care any more, and for Zodiac to be nominated might actually decrease its earning potential, as fans like to see Fincher outside of the mainstream, and Fincher fans are the only obvious target audience for this film, as depressing as that notion is.

  19. If they would platform it in December, and it got nominated, the Oscar people could redeem at least a shred of dignity and credibility after last year total debacle. Then again, with Harry Hamlin and Lisa Reena in the Academy gene pool, the water may be hopelessly poluted.

  20. Don’t forget that Charlotte’s Web opens on 12/20/06 for Christmas. So you just know that this is where Paramounts promotional efforts are gonna be then.

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