An end of the year re-release for summer films like Dunkirk and Detriot may appear helpful at securing a nomination, but it may not be enough.
With Oscar season approaching, the prospect of nominations is upon us again. And the list for this year’s possible contenders is already pretty extensive even without including films that still have yet to be released this year, such as The Shape of Water and The Post.
Just in time for the impending nominations, it was announced that starting December 1st Dunkirk will have a limited re-release in theaters, playing in major cities across the US such as Los Angeles, Dallas, and New York. The film was originally released during July of this year, earning $525,026,086 worldwide, with $188,026,086 of that total coming from domestic earnings. More than just a hit at the box office, however, the film is also at the top of many critics’ lists for possible best picture nominees.
Similar news was announced regarding the re-release of Detroit for December 1st, a film with less Oscar buzz than Dunkirk, but one that seems to be applying a similar tactic in trying to remind audiences of its existence before final nominations are made. Detroit released in August, earning about $16,790,139 domestically after spending a production budget of about 34 million. Directed by Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow, the film did not gain the traction that was expected by Annapurna Pictures. And though it did not tank with critics, it still seems to have gotten lost in the mix.
While it’s not completely agreed upon that Dunkirk is for sure the clear front-runner for best picture, the majority of the consensus is still pretty strong. The question is, can a limited re-release help a film like Detroit make it in the list of nominations, and does a popular choice like Dunkirk even need a re-release at all?
Looking at best picture nominee trends over the past decade, very few have actually used re-releases to ensure a nomination. This is mostly because the majority of nominees usually release in the fall or winter originally anyway. A study done by the site NU.nl which was reported on by the Guardian in 2013, shows that most nominated films release in December and most winners release in October or November. After going through all of the nominees from the past 10 years, this appears spot on considering only about 19 nominated films since the 2007 Oscars were released during a month outside of the official fall or winter season.
For the few nominations that had earlier releases, a fall re-release was not unheard of, it just was not exactly used for the purposes of getting nominated. After picking up nominations for the 2015 Oscars, Boyhood re-released in the UK for a period of time. But again, this was after being nominated and this was not a domestic re-release. Before this, The Hurt Locker, another Kathryn Bigelow film, had a re-release in theaters, but after it had already won big-time at the Oscars. And The Hurt Locker sweeping on award’s night was something unique in and of itself considering its original release was in June, making the film the only movie in the past decade to be a winner that was not released in the fall or winter. So, the lack of re-releases for Oscar purposes speaks to the experiment that Dunkirk and Detroit are taking part in by using a re-release as a nomination strategy. There may have been other films that tried using a re-release as a reminder to voters, but after going through past years’ nominations, it’s clear really none that tried made the cut.
Since this is an experiment of sorts, meaning they are not sure if this method will be helpful or not at getting nominations, it feels like it could be worth a try either way. Dunkirk’s re-release probably stands as more of a solidifier rather than a reminder, and for Detroit, it’s clear that picking up some more ticket sales, even without getting a nomination, could be to its benefit. With the list of potential nominees for best picture already packed, however, and with a few more on the way in December, it’s hard to see how a limited December re-release can make a large impact in the long-run. If this attempt works out though, then we can be sure to expect summer films of the future to have fall/winter re-releases. For now, however, the odds look a little thin at it being the deciding factor for the Academy.