Disney Renews IMAX Deal for Upcoming Slate, The Finest Hours Release Date Pushed Out of Oscar Corridor

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Ben-Foster-joins-The-Finest-HoursBack in January, we heard that Disney was bringing forward the release date for Craig Gillespie’s The Finest Hours, moving it up from April 2016 to October 2015. That put it into a strong position for a run at the Oscars during awards season.

Today, the studio and IMAX have announced that they are renewing their partnership for Disney’s upcoming slate through 2017. And the announcement also brings with it news that The Finest Hours’ release date has now been pushed back to January 2016, in order to secure an IMAX 3D release.

Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk, led by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is getting an IMAX 3D a week before The Finest Hours’ previous October release date, and Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak will be hitting IMAX cinemas a week after, which clearly left no room for Disney to fit into. Its new slot will see it opening a solid month after Star Wars: The Force Awakens does in mid-December. No films have been confirmed for IMAX for IMAX 3D releases in January or February 2016 yet, which should let Disney saturate the larger-screen format. It’s entirely possible Lionsgate and Summit will be looking Alex Proyas’ epic fantasy Gods of Egypt into IMAX cinemas, but that will be opening two weeks later, giving The Finest Hours plenty of time to earn its keep on those screens.

In terms of awards prestige, it’s a big shame for Gillespie and co. The film’s October slot instantly put it on the map for Disney to campaign heavily for it during awards season. Its new slot likely means the studio will instead be pitching it as more of a blockbuster event, particularly given its IMAX 3D release.

The Finest Hours tells the true tale of how in 1952, a Noreaster hit the New England coast, and two oil tankers were caught in the middle. The ships split in two, casting its crews into the ferocious seas, and it was up to the valiant effort of the coast guard to attempt a rescue.

Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainger, and Eric Bana top a great ensemble, with support from Graham McTavish, Kyle Gallner, Rachel Brosnahan, Josh Stewart, Abraham Benrubi, John Ortiz, and Beau Knapp.

Gillespie is reuniting with Disney after working together on Million Dollar Arm last year. He directs from a script by Oscar nominees Eric Johnson and Paul Tamsay (The Fighter), who adapt the original book by Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias, based on real events.

Its new slot will see it open instead alongside Warner Bros.’ Untitled New Line Horror and Sony’s YA adaptation, The 5th Wave, led by Chloë Grace Moretz and Maika Monroe. I was actually hoping that The 5th Wave would be given a chance to shine over that weekend, and now it almost certainly won’t be able to with Disney as its competition. Hopefully Sony will be announcing a release date shuffle of its own, either slightly earlier or later.

The renewal of Disney and IMAX’s deal means that the former has secured IMAX (and IMAX 3D, where appropriate) releases for their substantial slate over the next few years. Confirmed for release in the big-screen format are MCU titles Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and Thor: Ragnarok. Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Episode XIII and the stand-alone film Rogue One will also be given IMAX releases. Pixar’s Finding Dory and Toy Story 4 will as well. And so will Disney’s own The Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

The change in release date for The Finest Hours means that Disney will essentially be solely relying on Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, led by Tom Hanks, during awards season for all the above-the-line categories. It’s possible that Pete Docter’s Inside Out or Peter Sohn’s The Good Dinosaur could join the ranks of animated films to land the Best Picture nomination, Inside Out especially. But it takes a very strong animated film to sway Academy voters to vote for them over live-action, and that doesn’t happen at all often. But they both seem like likely bets for Best Animated Feature nominations, at the very least, and the studio should pick up plenty of nominations in many categories below the line.

The Finest Hours will now be released in 3D and IMAX 3D in the US on January 29th, 2016. No confirmation on whether or not its UK release date will be moving, too.

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