Madonna's 'W.E.' Pushed to Feb. 3 Release After Awards-Qualifying Run

W.E. Madonna Bubble Split - H 2011

W.E. Madonna Bubble Split - H 2011

The switch in release plans is designed to avoid a crowded Christmas calendar and to take advantage of Madonna's widely rumored Super Bowl performance.

Madonna's W.E. has joined a bevy of upcoming films that are opting for a one-week awards qualifying run before Dec. 31 but delaying their official release in theaters until after the new year in order to avoid the crowded year-end corridor.

W.E. launches its qualifying run Dec. 9, when the film was previously scheduled to debut in theaters. But the fim's release date has been moved to Feb. 3, the Weinstein Co. confirmed Wednesday.

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The switch in plans also is designed to take advantage of Madonna's widely rumored performance at the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.

W.E., charting the love affair between Wallis Simpson and Britain's Prince Edward, who abdicated the throne in order to marry Simpson, is hardly alone in opting for an awards-qualifying run versus a full-blown release. Other titles doing the same include Albert Knobbs, Rampart, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Coriolanus, also from the Weinstein Co.

Once a film plays in its qualifying run, usually in one or two theaters in Los Angeles, distributors can send out screeners to awards groups.

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The practice is more popular than ever this year, largely thanks to the success of last year's Biutiful, which Roadside Attractions didn't officially open in theaters until Jan. 28 following a qualifying run in December. The film, which earned Javier Bardem an Oscar nomination for best actor, was able to benefit from awards attention as it rolled out in theaters, grossing $5.1 million in the U.S., a strong showing for a dark, foreign-language film.

Howard Cohen and Eric d'Arbeloff's Roadside Attractions is using the same strategy for Albert Knobbs, starring Glenn Close in a much buzzed-about performance as a woman who pretends to be a man in 19th century Ireland.

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Indie distributors often lament the year-end glut of specialty films, which have to compete with each other for screens, as well as compete with the bigger studio tentpoles for attention from moviegoers.