This morning Summit Entertainment announced a decision to wait until 12.21 to launch Juan Antonio Bayona‘s The Impossible, an upscale, adult-minded tsunami disaster film, in a limited (NY and LA) way prior to a wide break in early 2013. It had been assumed/presumed that Summit would open it concurrent with the 10.11 debut in Spain, but no — they’re waiting for the Xmas season and maximum commercial exposure during Oscar balloting. But will anyone pay attention, given Summit’s half-assed handling so far?

If you ask me a 12.21 NY and LA release for an arty-type, non-popcorn film indicates a limited and almost guarded approach. It almost feels as if Summit is dumping it. At the very best they’re indecisive.

They showed The Impossible to three or four L.A. journo-tastemakers in April, and I’ve been told it’s really good. It goes without saying that if they were truly behind The Impossible as a review-driven, awards-level thing they would open it in late October or November or early December, and possibly screen it at the Telluride, Venice, Toronto or New York film festivals to kick things off. But no — they’re giving it a token release in the midst of Xmas madness, just throwing it out there like two M&M peanut candies in the midst of a herd of elephants.

Update: Don’t be surprised if one of the above-mentioned film festival appearances manifests. A guy who knows a guy who knows a guy has given me a tip.

Summit is hoping to build a little heat when they release it wide (or at least wider) in January or thereabouts, of course, but audiences can smell hesitancy and indecision. Everybody can smell it like they can smell resolve and confidence and heat. You have to man up and release a movie like you really mean it. If you have a good film you can’t fart around and play tiddly-winks. You have to get up on that high diving board and do a jackknife or a one-and-a-half gainer and dive right into the pool.

And why is Summit still delaying on putting out an English-language teaser-trailer? A Spanish-language teaser-trailer has been kicking around since April. I met Bayona during the Cannes Film Festival and he showed me an English-language version on his iPad — it’s fine. Summit might be looking to assemble their own trailer, but their entire handling of The Impossible, which has been completed since March, has been tentative and ass-draggy and under-motivated. They acquired U.S. rights to the film in May 2010, but their mantra all along has been “hold on, we’re trying to figure this out…give us time!”

I tried to talk to Summit but they couldn’t be bothered. I’m guessing they want to focus on their big fall elephant, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 — Back to Volterra and More CG Crap with the Volturi, which opens in November. Once that’s done they can focus on The Impossible.

The Impossible is a true account of a family swept up in the tsunami that slammed into the coast of Thailand and neighboring countries eight years ago. Naomi Watts and Ewan Macgregor are the stars. Geraldine Chaplin, Tom Holland, Gitte Julsrud and Marta Etura costar.

Bayona’s last film, The Orphanage, is one of the great adult horror films of the 21st Century. The same team that worked on The Orphanage (writer, production manager, cinematographer, composer and editor) reunited for The Impossible.

The Impossible was largely shot in Alicante, Spain and on location in Phuket, Thailand, beginning in the vicinity of May 2010.