U’s crowd of contenders

Studio to unleash four big pix in seven weeks, starting Nov. 11

There’s been plenty of speculation that “Cinderella Man” may have been better suited as a fall release than as a summer bow. But just a quick look at Universal’s fall slate full of prestige pics makes one wonder: Where could they have fit the pugilism pic in?

On Nov. 11, the studio opens Sam Mendes‘ Gulf War story “Jarhead,” featuring last year’s Oscar-winning actor Jaime Fox. Then on Dec. 14 comes multi-statuette owner Peter Jackson‘s “King Kong,” followed by two more Oscar hopefuls set for the Christmas frame: Steven Spielberg‘s untitled Munich Olympics film and Mel Brooks‘ “The Producers.” In all, it’s four big guns in seven weeks.

“Cinderella Man” — made by the team behind Oscar-winning “A Beautiful Mind,” star Russell Crowe, helmer Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer — opened June 3, kicking up awards buzz, if not stellar biz. (A June 11 screening at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences was perhaps the most crowded and best received of the year.)

While the studio has acknowledged taking a calculated risk by releasing the pic in the summer, it was working from the successful template of 2003’s “Seabiscuit.”

When Warners was faced with a similar embarrassment of riches last year, it switched “The Aviator” over to Miramax, which was another financier on the pic.

Miramax co-financed “Cinderella Man,” too. But U doesn’t have that option since Bob and Harvey Weinstein will have left the company before the fall.

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