Sony Classics Bets Big on Woody Allen With Major ‘Blue Jasmine’ Expansion

Sony Classics Bets Big on Woody Allen With Major 'Blue Jasmine' Expansion

The drama about the wife of a Bernie Madoff-type swindler could be the director's highest-grossing film ever — if it clicks

Sony Pictures Classics will find out starting Friday whether its big bet on Woody Allen‘s “Blue Jasmine” pays off.

Whether the drama starring Cate Blanchett will become the 77-year-old auteur's highest-grossing movie ever, ahead of his 2010 hit “Midnight in Paris, will become more clear, as well.

SPC has expanded "Blue Jasmine" from 229 theaters to more than 1,200 – the widest release ever for an Allen movie – for this weekend, its fifth in release.

That's far more than the 1,035 theaters that “Midnight in Paris” was in at its peak. That 2011 comedy made more than $56 million domestically and $151 million worldwide.

Also read: Independent Box Office: Woody Allen's 'Blue Jasmine' Debut is Year's Best

The addition of 970 theaters is an aggressive play for SPC, particularly since its grosses were essentially flat last week, when it added 110 theaters. Still, it took in $2.2 million and nearly cracked the top 10.

“Blue Jasmine,” like “Midnight in Paris, is generating significant awards buzz. The comedy, which starred Owen Wilson, earned Allen an Original Screenplay Oscar and it was nominated in three other categories, including Best Picture.

Allen, who also wrote and directed “Blue Jasmine,” is sure to be in the awards discussion. But Blanchett's portrayal of the wife of a Bernie Madoff-type swindler has drawn the most attention. She tops a strong ensemble cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Louis C.K., Tammy Blanchard and Bobby Cannavale.

Also read: Darkness of Woody Allen's 'Blue Jasmine' Brightens Box-Office Outlook

SPC says Allen doesn't disclose his budgets, but like nearly all of his films, it's devoid of special effects and is almost surely in the same $17 million range as “Midnight in Paris.”

On its opening weekend, it averaged $102,011 per screen in six theaters – the year's best limited opening. And since its July 26 debut, it's brought in nearly $10 million.

In the movie, Blanchett plays a delusional Manhattan society wife who loses everything and moves in with her sister when her husband is sent to prison for defrauding investors.

Also read: How Cate Blanchett Got Ready to Play a Boozer in Woody Allen's 'Blue Jasmine'

Though there are elements of humor, it's a dark drama that has played best with mature audiences. That bodes well for a long run, particularly if the awards buzz continues, but the key to major mainstream success will be expanding beyond Allen's loyal fans — and he's made plenty in five decades of filmmaking — and finding a younger audience.

Sony Pictures Classics Co-President Michael Barker was hopeful.

“When a Woody Allen movie clicks, younger audiences tend to come in the third and fourth weeks,” he said. “But this is a drama, so we'll see.”