Disney Pushes Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book, Brings Forward The Finest Hours Release Date into This Year’s Oscar Season

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The-Jungle-Book-The-Finest-Hours-release-datesWhen Disney and director Craig Gillespie started gearing up to shoot The Finest Hours at the end of last year, the project instantly sounded like a very strong Oscar contender for the studio.

The studio subsequently gave the film an April 2016 release date, which put it outside of the typical October-December awards corridor. But now they’re switching gears, moving Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book into that Spring 2016 slot and bringing forward the release date for The Finest Hours into this year’s Oscar season.

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, and Holliday Grainger top Gillespie’s anticipated dramatic thriller, with Eric Bana, Graham McTavish, Kyle Gallner, Rachel Brosnahan, Josh Stewart, Abraham Benrubi, John Ortiz, and Beau Knapp rounding out the ensemble.

Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm) reunites with Disney here, directing from a script penned by Oscar nominees Eric Johnson and Paul Tamsay (The Fighter), who adapt the original book by Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias.

The leading cast alone was enough to convince me that this one has the potential to win big at the Oscars, and I was really surprised when its release date was originally set for the spring next year. The film wrapped towards the end of last year, and Disney clearly likes what it’s seen so far to give it such a prominent slot at the start of this year’s Oscar season.

It will be opening in October alongside Warner Bros. and New Line’s anticipated National Lampoon’s comedy reboot, Vacation, starring Ed Helms, Leslie Mann, Chris Hemsworth, Charlie Day, and more, as well as Relativity’s Halle Berry-led thriller, Kidnap.

A week later, Disney will be releasing Steven Soderbergh’s untitled Cold War spy thriller, starring Tom Hanks, and the two films will likely form the bulk of Disney’s live-action contenders this time next year.

Favreau’s The Jungle Book boasts a similarly exceptional cast, with newcomer Neel Sethi starring as Mowgli, and Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito, Ben Kingsley, Lupita Nyong’o, and Emjay Anthony lending their voices in the live-action/CG hybrid.

Its new April 2016 slot sees it going up against Universal’s comedy, The Best Man Wedding, starring Taye Diggs and Terrence Howard, the third film in Malcolm D. Lee’s series following 1999’s The Best Man and 2013’s The Best Man Holiday. Sony also recently pushed back their Goosebumps adaptation, starring Jack Black, from August this year into April next year, which should see the two films fighting for the family audiences. I can’t help but think that adults will be pulled towards Favreau’s new take on The Jungle Book, and head to the multiplex with their children in tow.

In the past few years, Disney has had a number of contenders during awards season, perhaps most notably with this year’s Into the Woods and last year’s Saving Mr. Banks. They frequent pick up wins and nominations in the animation categories, as well as plenty in the below-the-line slots, but rarely do they crack Best Picture, Best Director, or any of the acting or screenplay categories with their live-action work. This move gives us a glimpse of what they’re likely aiming for come the end of next year, giving Spielberg company in the studio’s campaign for the 2016 Oscars.

The Finest Hours will now be released in the US on October 9th, 2015, with Favreau’s The Jungle Book arriving in 3D on April 15th, 2016.

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