Paramount Pictures has sprung a surprise new entry into the awards-season mix, setting the Adam McKay-directed adaptation of the Michael Lewis book The Big Short to be AFI’s closing-night gala film on November 12 before it opens limited on December 11 and goes wide December 23. That adds another film to what is shaping up to be the most competitive year-end movie market in recent memory.

The studio today releases its first trailer for a Paramount/New Regency film that stars Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Melissa Leo, Marisa Tomei, Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling. Written by Charles Randolph and McKay, the pic is based on Lewis’ book, The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday Machine, about the buildup of the housing and credit bubble during the 2000s. When four outsiders saw what the big banks, media and government refused to see — the global collapse of the economy — they had an idea: the Big Short. Their bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of modern banking, where they must question everyone and everything.

Image (1) BigShort__140324170934.jpg for post 703473adam mckayThis all happened in the past two weeks after McKay — the former Saturday Night Live writer best known for directing hit Will Ferrell comedies including Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, Anchorman and The Other Guys — first showed the studio a nearly completed cut of the film and said he could finish quickly when he got a strong response. Paramount brass then showed it to AFI and got that plum closing-night berth. The studio and producers Plan B and New Regency — which teamed on Best Picture Oscar winner 12 Years A Slave — won an auction for the latest film-friendly fact-based book by Lewis, who also authored Moneyball and The Blind Side. They have operated largely under the radar, and it didn’t seem they would be ready in time to compete in what suddenly has become a heated Oscar corridor field, after many awards-bait films premiered at the Telluride, Venice and Toronto festivals.

carellstevemarisatomeiThe Big Short will open limited December 11 against the wide opening of the Ron Howard-directed whale ship survival tale In The Heart Of The Sea. That day sees the wide opening of the Brian Helgeland-directed Legends, with Tom Hardy playing ruthless British gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, after it opens limited November 20 and expands November 25. The following December 18 weekend sees Star Wars: The Force Awakens open wide and dominate regular and Imax screens. Paramount then boldly opens The Big Short wide against that juggernaut five days later, and two days before a crowded December 25 Friday release calendar that sees the wide openings of the David O Russell-directed Joy with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, and the Peter Landesman-directed football film Concussion with Will Smith. It also sees the limited openings of the Quentin Tarantino-directed The Hateful Eight with Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell and Bruce Dern, and the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-directed The Revenant with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. The Point Break remake and Alvin And The Chipmunks: Road Chip also open that weekend. along with the McKay-produced Paramount comedy Daddy’s Home with Ferrell.

Melissa Leo 1Paramount has separately slotted for December 30 limited release the Charlie Kaufman/Duke Johnson-directed stop motion animation film Anomalisa, which the studio acquired about a week ago at the Toronto Film Festival. Suddenly, a studio that seemed to have little to do this coming awards season finds itself in the middle of a very competitive race with two major films.