'Charlie' to ship out early

Uni moves pic up 4 days to Dec. 21

"Charlie Wilson's War" will take to the boxoffice battlefield a few days earlier than originally scheduled.

Universal said Friday that the movie, in which Tom Hanks plays a Texas congressman who becomes involved in covert activities in Afghanistan, will open Dec. 21 with a wide release of more than 2,000 theaters rather than waiting until Christmas Day.

"On top of the quality and pedigree of the film, people are really enjoying the movie," said Adam Fogelson, president of marketing and distribution at Universal. "And so when you have a movie that is so satisfying to audiences, there's no reason not to take advantage of those extra 3 1/2 boxoffice days to establish the film."

In moving up four days, "Charlie" will face off against a crowded field that, as scheduled, includes the wide releases of Disney's action-adventure sequel "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," Warner Bros.' romance "P.S., I Love You," DreamWorks/Paramount's musical "Sweeney Todd" and Sony's comedy "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story."

Although "Charlie" has moved, Christmas Day will mark the opening of Fox's "Alien vs. Predator: Requiem," MGM/Weinstein Co.'s "The Great Debaters" and Sony's "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep."

"The whole corridor is crowded, but I think whatever movies have strength coming out of the 21st are going to continue to play strong on Christmas Day and beyond," Fogelson said.

Christmas and New Year's have not fallen on a Tuesday since 2001 — and before that, the last time the calendar played out that way was 1990 — so the industry does not have much experience with this particular holiday configuration. But it could potentially add up to two consecutive five-day moviegoing weekends, with school holidays contributing to midweek ticket sales between the two holidays.

Directed by Mike Nichols and written by Aaron Sorkin, "Charlie" stars Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hanks and Gary Goetzman produced the film, with Celia Costas, Ryan Kavanaugh and Jeff Skoll serving as exec producers.