The 2015 Oscar nominations were announced this morning, but most of the major studios have already begun to position certain upcoming movies to become awards-season contenders (including for the 2016 Academy Awards) later this year. The most recent example of this is the oceanic survival drama/adventure In the Heart of the Sea, which Warner Bros. has shifted back to late 2015.
In the Heat of the Sea has been generating positive buzz thanks to what has been a pretty effective trailer marketing campaign, so it's not so surprising that WB has decided it's more befitting of an awards-friendly release date than a March release. Director Ron Howard tends to specialize in "prestige" films that are generally released in the fall or early winter anyway (including Rush, his previous collaboration with Sea star Chris Hemsworth), so Sea's original date always seemed a bit odd.
Howard's In the Heart of the Sea will now open in U.S. theaters on December 11th, 2015; currently, no other films are scheduled to open that weekend, though Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens arrives a week later. The move also helps to ensure that the general public doesn't get burnt out on Hemsworth, seeing as Sea was originally slated to arrive less than two months after his next starring role, in the Michael Mann film Blackhat (opening tomorrow).
The combination of Hemsworth starring and Howard direction a story focused around captivating real-life subject matter doesn't guarantee a huge box office turnout state-side; case in point, Rush only grossed $27 million in U.S. theaters, back in 2013. However, if Sea continues to build good worth of mouth then it may prove to be more of a commercial success in December than, say, Exodus: Gods and Kings (which launched around the same time in 2014).
Run All Night, meanwhile, has moved forward a month and taken Sea's old release date on March 13th, 2015. That means the Neeson-headlined action/drama will face both Disney's Kenneth Branagh-directed live-action Cinderella movie and the latest Paranormal Activity installment, The Ghost Dimension, as all three films will be opening on that same day.
Neeson enjoyed a big opening weekend with Taken 3 this month, but Run All Night seems likely to (financially-speaking) perform closer to last year's Non-Stop - fittingly enough, as both Neeson vehicles were directed by Jaume-Collet Serra. 2014's A Walk Among the Tombstones showed that Neeson plus a gritty crime doesn't necessarily mean a hit, though; and arriving (nearly) on the heels of Taken 3, demand for another film in which Neeson kills a lot of people might not be so high...
Run All Night opens in U.S. theaters on March 13th, 2015, followed by In the Heart of the Sea on December 11th, 2015.
Source: Warner Bros.