Focus, Working Title expand plans for comedy

Focus Features and Working Title have decided to go wide when opening the Coen brothers’ next film, “Burn After Reading,” on Sept. 12 because of the film’s comedic appeal and cast.

Dark spy-comedy stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton, who recently starred with Clooney in “Michael Clayton.”

Announcement of the “Burn After Reading” release date comes one week after Joel and Ethan Coen’s “No Country for Old Men” picked up Oscar wins for picture, director, adapted screenplay and supporting actor.

The Coens wrote, directed and produced “Burn,” which revolves around an ousted CIA official whose memoir inadvertently falls into the hands of two bumbling Washington, D.C., gym employees.

Most of the pics directed by the Coen brothers have followed the traditional platform release pattern employed for specialty films that are less accessible commercially. Exceptions include Tom Hanks starrer “The Lady Killers”; “Intolerable Cruelty,” starring Clooney opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones; and “The Big Lebowski.”

“Everyone feels (‘Burn After Reading’) has the capability to play wide at that September playtime,” said Focus prexy of distribution Jack Foley.

“Burn” isn’t the first pic to stake a claim on Sept. 12. Already set to open on that date is Paramount Vantage’s Keira Knightley-Ralph Fiennes starrer “The Duchess,” although it will bow in a limited run.

Set to open wide alongside “Burn” are Jon Avnet’s Robert De Niro-Al Pacino starrer “Righteous Kill,” from Overture Films, and Lionsgate’s “Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys Together.”

Working Title co-chairs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are exec producing “Burn” with Robert Graf, who has worked on the Coens’ past five films in various producing capacities.

“No Country for Old Men” is the Coen brothers’ most successful film at the domestic box office, grossing $69.7 million through Sunday, according to Rentrak. The moody and violent modern-day Western began as a limited release.

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