Ron Howard's Formula One racing movie "Rush" certainly has enough high-profile elements to warrant a nationwide theatrical blowout. Yet, Universal, the distributor-for-hire on the film, has opted to open the Chris Hemsworth starrer at just five Stateside locations Friday before going wide next weekend.
The limited release, which should result in a sizable, therefore brag-worthy opening per-screen average, is meant to help lift the film's profile for Stateside audiences. The platform bow also avoids a head-to-head battle with Warner Bros.' similarly adult-targeted "Prisoners," which is expected to win the weekend with $18 million-$20 million in wide release.
VIDEO: Chris Hemsworth, Olivia Wilde On Their New "Rush"
Although if "Rush" doesn't perform to expectations at its five opening locations (the five largest in the country), Universal leaves other exhibitors little incentive next weekend to play the film on their choicest screens.
It's a risky move, for sure, though a platform release is not uncommon for elevated studio titles: Paramount used the strategy on "The Fighter" in 2010, and Warners does so with practically every Clint Eastwood film.
For "Rush," which cost $38 million from co-producers and financiers Exclusive Media and Cross Creek, Howard and company have always faced an uphill battle in the States:
- Race car movies rarely win at the box office. Plus, "Rush" is a period film about a real-life rivalry between Formula One racers, Brit James Hunt, played by Hemsworth, and Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) -- not a well-known story in the U.S.
- Moreover, "Rush" failed to debut at No. 1 in the U.K., where it had the widest-ever launch for local distrib StudioCanal, earning just north of $3 million locally, behind "Insidious Chapter 2" ($4.6 million).
Not surprisingly, the film is generating the loudest buzz with men over 25, though it recently has gained some traction with young females, according to Universal.
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