Toronto Film Festival/AP
'Jackie' stars Natalie Portman.

Natalie Portman's 'Jackie' coming in December. No awards season shift?

The film 'Jackie,' which stars Portman as Jackie Kennedy, will be released in December after screening at the Toronto Film Festival. Traditional release dates are changing for some kinds of movies, but is the awards season for films set in stone?

The film “Jackie,” which stars Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy, has been acquired by Fox Searchlight and will be released this December, a move that demonstrates the enduring format of the awards hopefuls movie season even as the traditional movie calendar continues to shift.

“Jackie” also stars Peter Sarsgaard, John Hurt, and Greta Gerwig. It impressed critics when it screened at the Toronto Film Festival, which is still going on, and was quickly taken on by Fox Searchlight, which subsequently scheduled the December release date. 

Many critics are pointing to Ms. Portman, who has already won an Oscar for best actress for the movie “Black Swan,” as an awards season contender for her work in the film. They are also seeing Fox Searchlight's choice to release the film in December as a sign that the studio is hopeful Portman could have some success during Oscars season. 

The end of the year is often seen as a time for awards hopefuls to be released. For example, this year will see well-reviewed or anticipated films such as “Queen of Katwe,” “The Birth of a Nation,” “Loving,” and “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” released between September and December.

This schedule stays mostly the same, despite the fact that the movie calendar has changed in some ways over the past several years. While months like March and April were previously thought of as quieter months at the multiplex, recent blockbusters like “The Hunger Games” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” were released during that time. 

Some probable awards season contenders like August’s “Florence Foster Jenkins” came out at other times. Yet the awards season calendar mostly stays put. Why is this?

Deadline reporter Pete Hammond writes that smaller movies that come out earlier in the year often struggle because so many other studios stick to the traditional awards season time period. “The problem with so many of these smaller indie movies released earlier in the year is their not-always-deep-pocketed distributors have to mount expensive campaigns on their behalf or they stand little chance against the big guns of fall,” Mr. Hammond writes. 

And Forbes writer Scott Mendelson recently wrote that he thinks studios tried more of a spread-out schedule this year, but that it was a bust, noting that movies such as “Free State of Jones,” and “The Infiltrator” did not do well financially when they came out during non-Oscars season times.

“Theoretically, audiences and critics wouldn’t have to endure a year-end sprint to see all of the relevant Oscar movies,” Mr. Mendelson wrote of spreading out “prestige” movies. “The Oscar conversation wouldn’t be comprised of arbitrarily determined ‘contenders’ which tend to be anointed before they are even released.”

However, when Hollywood tried to alter the schedule, "audiences mostly said: 'No, thank you,'" he observes, saying "It is time to sadly acknowledge that 'Year-round Oscar season' was a failure."

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