In a surprise development, Tom Ortenberg's Open Road has set the Joe Carnahan-directed killer wolf pack thriller The Grey to open wide on Jan. 27. Now, that puts the movie beyond the Oscars. But I'm told that Open Road has left open the possibility that the film could get a qualifying run in two theaters before year's end so that Liam Neeson would qualify for the Best Actor category. I must say I am a bit surprised that the qualifying run isn't an automatic. Buyers who watched the movie and bid on it in July before Open Road won it -- paying near $8 million and a $25 million P&A commitment for U.S. rights -- all hailed Neeson's performance as Oscar bait. The deal was based on watching 30 minutes of scenes, but word was that opening this year, even just to qualify, was a priority for the sellers and a reason some distributors with full Oscar-season skeds shied away. Neeson plays the leader of a group of oil drillers who struggle to survive in the wilds of Alaska after their plane crashes smack in the middle of a territorial rogue wolf pack. Carnahan won't finish the film in time to show it at Telluride, Toronto or the New York Film Festival, but they will get enough feedback from advance screenings to make a decision about whether it's ready to wage an Oscar campaign for Neeson, who was nominated once in his career for Schindler's List and has enjoyed a leading man resurgence thanks to Taken.
-Joey's Two Cents: Very often these limited qualifying runs end up being for naught, but this could be n exception, so stay tuned...thoughts?