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A method to madness of release dates

September 07, 2003|Lorenza Munoz | Times Staff Writer

Although there have been fewer changes than some observers anticipated, the abbreviated Oscar season has Hollywood playing a tense game of chess with movie opening dates.

Scheduling a movie's release has always been something of an art form -- the wrong date could spell death if there is too much competition. But this fall seems to be chock-full of major movies nearly every weekend.

It used to be that fall was a calmer time of year for the movie industry. Increasingly it resembles summer and December, when so many movies come out every weekend that they threaten to cannibalize each other.

For example, Friday features wide releases "Matchstick Men," "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" and "Cabin Fever" plus limited openings of "Lost in Translation," "Dummy," and "Millennium Actress." The following Friday, Sept. 19, there are "Underworld," "Cold Creek Manor," "The Fighting Temptations," "Casa de los Babys," "Secondhand Lions," "Demonlover," "The Animation Show" and "Taking Sides."

The weekend of Oct. 3 will see the debuts of "Out of Time," "The Human Stain," "The Dreamers," "The School of Rock," "The Station Agent" and something called "Bubba Ho-Tep."

Attempting to get a jump on the weekend of Oct. 10, Warner Bros. is opening Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River" in L.A. and New York on Wednesday, Oct. 8. Films bowing that Friday include Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill," "Good Boy!" and the Cohen brothers' "Intolerable Cruelty." The rest of the month isn't much different.

Some films have been shuffled back and forth in the hopes of finding the perfect weekend to maximize exposure. "Under the Tuscan Sun," Diane Lane's newly-single-woman-in-Italy drama, has been changed from early September to Sept. 26 -- a date the movie will also share with "Luther," "Mambo Italiano," "My Life Without Me," "Prey for Rock and Roll" and "The Rundown."

Jane Campion's highly anticipated drama "In the Cut," with Meg Ryan, was also moved from late August to Oct. 22 -- a date perceived as giving it better play for Oscar considerations.

-- Lorenza Munoz

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