There is a huge surprise for the industry today as many rival studios are certain to be peeved at Universal’s decision to move Tom Hooper’s big screen adaptation of Les Miserables to the unbelievably crowded date of December 25. Christmas Day is already home to Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, a Bette Midler-Billy Crystal comedy called Parental Guidance, and the Seth Rogen-Barbra Streisand comedy The Guilt Trip. More new arrivals come just the weekend preceding the holiday in the form of the Tom Cruise actioner Jack Reacher and another comedy from Judd Apatow entitled This Is 40 that is pretty much a spin-off of Knocked Up.
Now, the original release of December 14 would have been difficult as well thanks to the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on the same day, but there is the clear advantage of being substantially different from the Lord of the Rings prequel. When your competitors swell in numbers, any such genre boost goes out the door and that is what people will be criticizing if Les Miserables fails to drum up box office support, so just what exactly was the studio thinking especially considering family comedies have historically dominated the day?
It is pretty obvious that the desire will be to mirror the theatrical success of Hooper’s last picture The King’s Speech as much as possible. That offering received a nationwide release on Christmas Day and as the award nominations came in from both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards, so did the audiences. The ideal situation for Universal here is to ride that buzz through February and they can best do that if they get as close to the award shows as possible without debuting in the dreaded month of January. That said, it must be acknowledged that the movie found that sort of success because it was ‘a hidden gem’ whereas everyone already expects big things from Les Miserables thanks to the incredible cast coupled with its source material’s street cred.