Pete Hammond jumps into the will- Paramount-give- Zodiac-a-platform-opening-in-late-December story in his latest Hollywood Wiretap column, which is basically about how end-of-the-year crowding has left the studios with an embarassment of riches. But before exploring the Zodiac particulars, I have a suggestion.

Paramount is apparently still on the fence (i.e., reluctant but unwilling to give this reluctance a full voice) about opening David Fincher‘s allegedly top-drawer policier in New York and L.A. on or before before 12.31.06. (The studio intends to release it wide on 1.17.07.) I’ve written two or three articles pushing for this, but I’ve only read an early version of the script. Since Fincher is now, according to Hammond, “completing editing and mixing and the film should be pretty much wrapped in a couple of weeks,” he and his producers should simply arrange for a quiet little columnists-and-critics screening of Zodiac so certain parties can see it and respond first-hand.
Zodiac may not be all it’s cracked up to be, in which case nobody has to write anything one way or the other and Paramount and the Zodiac team can duke it out between themselves. But if it’s an exceptional wow, which I’ve been told by certain parties, then certain columnists and critics could conceivably proclaim this and the Zodiac team would have a stronger case to make to the Paramount foot-draggers.
“Sources are saying it is brilliantly made with great performances across the board,” writes Hammond. “The cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards. And even though Fincher’s hard edged previous films (Fight Club, Panic Room, Se7en) have received a grand total of 2 Academy nods in tech categories, this is said to be the one that could change that pattern.
“That is, if Zodiac receives a qualifying run in December ahead of its wide January release. If it has to wait until next year, the odds are long [for ’07 Oscars] since January films are a distant memory come nomination time. But hope remains that Fincher’s film will still be a part of this year’s kudos story. We’ve been told that it’s a complex situation and there are ‘discussions that are probably going to take place.’
“One hurdle may be that Paramount really doesn’t need another picture going for the gold this year since they already have World Trade Center and the upcoming Dreamworks’films Flags Of Our Fathers (10.20) and Dreamgirls (12.21). And although it is a completely separate entity, specialty division Paramount Vantage has a major contender in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu‘s Babel (10.27).
“But if Zodiac really does deliver the goods (as those few who have seen it believe), then how can it be denied a passport to the Kodak? After all, remember 1974. One studio accounted for three, count `em , three of the five Best Picture Oscar nominations. The movies were The Godfather Part II , Chinatown and The Conversation. The studio was, you guessed it, Paramount.”
Bottom line: if Zodiac is the goodie its supporters say it is, there is no downside — zip, nada, none — to giving it a platform debut in four or six theatres in N.Y. and L.A. in late December. Paramount can’t lose, especially given the apparent likelihood that Zodiac will need some kind of big advance sell since it’s fairly long (about three hours) and doesn’t end its hunt-for-a-serial-killer plot with a conventional finale.