Over at Indiewire, Anne Thompson agrees that early “tastemaker” screenings of A Monster Calls have given Focus Features the encouragement it needs to aim for a more awards-friendly release date. Thompson says that an earlier release date puts undo burden on the production to stay in theaters until awards season gives it a boost. That’s always a risky move. Sometimes not even awards season buzz can give a movie adequate lift off, as we saw with Steve Jobs last year. But A Monster Calls seems, to me, more of a player in terms of box office since its plot is exactly the kind of thing audiences go for — young male central figure, with women as supporting players. It should do very well come Christmas season, with or without awards buzz so all in all it’s a smart move.
Directed by J.A. Bayona (The Impossible), A Monster Calls, like Pete’s Dragon or the BFG (despite Spielberg) is going to be a tough sell for the Academy since they aren’t exactly “fantasy friendly.” Thompson says “Think Room, Pete’s Dragon and the BFG.” Well, of those three, only Room was Academy friendly and not exactly family friendly, quite hard to watch and very very dark. On the other hand, Pan’s Labyrinth was very popular with voters, though also quite dark. The key is to not be a kid’s movie. Spielberg can get away with it, and Scorsese did, but for the most part – the Oscar movie is a drama for adults, very occasionally a comedy, and very occasionally effects driven (although that will have to change).
Focus is pushing A Monster Calls from October to December 21, which gives it ample time to pick up steam with critics, perhaps, to give it a bigger lift off in time for the Christmas season. It’s probably a win-win for them in terms of box office.
I haven’t yet seen the film but the trailer destroyed me. The film is based on a book that was inspired by a story told to Jim Kay by Siobhan Dowd. Dowd had terminal cancer and relayed the story before she died. As with all things, and as Stephen King would say, the power of the imagination always surpasses a movie made to replicate it because each of us sees a different movie when we read a book. What we see with the movie is one person’s imaginative retelling of what is in his or her imagination. If the trailer is any indication, we are in good hands with Bayona.