The Weinstein Company's drama joins a very crowded field of contenders in its limited New York and L.A. rollout
“Philomena,” the Stephen Frears-directed drama starring Judi Dench, will be the latest Oscar hopeful to join the box-office fray when it opens in four theaters on Friday.
“It’s Harvey time,” the Weinstein Company’s distribution chief Erik Lomis told TheWrap.
He was referring to his boss Harvey Weinstein, who has a track record for high-powered Academy Award campaigns and success with late-year releases with awards aspirations including Best Picture Oscar winners “The Artist,” “The King’s Speech” and “Shakespeare in Love.”
TWC already has one Best Picture front-runner, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” in this year’s race and that’s just the start. “Fruitvale Station” and star Michael B. Jordan are drawing awards buzz, and “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” (Nov. 29) and “August: Osage County” (Dec. 25) are sure to be in the discussions, too.
“One thing we know how to do is connect with smart, well-executed films for adults,” said Lomis, “and that’s what we’re dealing with in ‘Philomena.’” His confidence is further buoyed by the film's performance abroad. It's taken in nearly $12 million over the last three weeks and shown notable saying power in the U.K.
Drawn from a real story, the film stars Dench as Philomena Lee, an Irish woman who searches for her son that she was forced to give up for adoption as a teenager. The film is based on BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith’s “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee.” British comedian Steve Coogan co-stars in the film, which he co-wrote with Jeff Pope, as a journalist who helps Lee search for her child.
Coogan and Pope won for Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year, the film won the Audience Award at the Toronto Film Festival and the 78-year-old Dench appears headed for her fifth Best Actress Oscar nomination.
Mature women are the target demographic for “Philomena,” at least initially, Lomis said. He’s hoping the clearly defined niche will help the drama find its footing ahead of next weekend, when “Philomena” will expand into about 600 theaters in the major markets.
It’s a very crowded marketplace these days, and we’re not even talking about “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “Thor: The Dark World.” Awards hopefuls “Gravity,” “Captain Phillips,” “12 Years a Slave,” “The Dallas Buyers Club,” “Nebraska” and “All Is Lost” are all in multiplexes, have been well received by older audiences and are critical favorites.
“We know this film delivers and that people who see it are going to be more than satisfied, so we’re pretty confident,” Lomis said.
Here's the trailer: