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'Anonymous' won't open nationwide in last-minute change

October 19, 2011 |  4:45 pm

Sony Pictures has suddenly changed its plans to open "Anonymous" nationwide next Friday after pre-release surveys indicated that the Roland Emmerich-directed Shakespeare drama was poised to have a weak first weekend.

Instead, in an unusual change so close to a planned launch, the studio will open the picture, about a British earl who some claim was the true author of William Shakespeare's plays, in only 250 theaters next weekend. Sony had originally planned to launch the movie in thousands of theaters.

Tracking surveys indicated that audiences were not that interested in seeing the film and it was likely headed for a very soft opening of less than $5 million. Sony is now hoping to generate buzz and positive reviews to boost audience excitement by opening the movie only in major cities Oct. 28. The studio then plans to expand its run to more locations throughout November.

"We love the picture and think it's going to get great word of mouth," said Rory Bruer, Sony's distribution president. "We're committed to expanding it until it plays wide."

"Anonymous" is a departure for Emmerich, who's best known for big-budget disaster movies such as "2012" and "The Day After Tomorrow." His new movie cost only about $30 million to make and is a period drama likely to appeal only to adults.

-- Ben Fritz and John Horn

Photo: Joely Richardson and Jamie Campbell Bower in "Anonymous." Credit: Reiner Bajo / Columbia Pictures.