It's got rave reviews, Oscar buzz, and Harvey in its corner. But can it find a big audience?

You’re forgiven if you’ve watched the trailers for David O. Russell‘s Silver Linings Playbook and been left uncertain as to what kind of film it is: A sports movie? A rom-com? A family drama? And it has a dance contest, right? The rich, poignant — if genre-resistant — movie stars Bradley Cooper as a recently discharged mental patient who forges an improbable bond with an emotionally damaged woman (Jennifer Lawrence) after moving back in with his parents (Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro). A People’s Choice Award winner at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, Silver Linings has gotten glowing reviews (including an A from EW) and generated plenty of Oscar talk. But competing for audiences in a crowded movie season is a tricky business. ”It’s a hard movie to market,” says a marketing exec at another company. ”Crazy isn’t that fun to sell.” And that title, taken from Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel, is kind of a mouthful.

According to reports, the film was slated for wide release (some 2,000 theaters), but The Weinstein Company changed course in mid-November, choosing a slow rollout instead. If TWC was a little overzealous early on, it’s understandable given the movie’s enthusiastic reception in Toronto and the fact that it stars two extremely hot commodities in Cooper and Lawrence — though many of the latter’s fans can’t follow her from the PG-13-rated The Hunger Games to the R-rated Silver Linings. Weinstein COO David Glasser insists co-chairman Harvey Weinstein and the company have always had the slow-release option in their back pocket: ”This is what we do best.”

It certainly is. The Weinstein Company has won two Best Picture Oscars in a row with the strategy: Both The King’s Speech (2010) and The Artist (2011) opened in limited release over Thanksgiving weekend, then expanded. ”One of Harvey’s great talents is that he’s nimble,” says the marketing executive. In fact, all the industry insiders consulted for this article believe TWC made a smart call in scaling down the release. If the movie had floundered in wide release, it might have disappeared fast — and weak box office tends to hurt a movie’s Oscar chances. Now the film can gain momentum slowly, as it inevitably appears on year-end best lists and snags Golden Globe nominations.

So far Silver Linings‘ box office hasn’t quite matched its word of mouth. The film screened in 367 theaters over Thanksgiving weekend, earning a respectable but hardly Lincoln-esque $11,945 per screen. (At press time, it had grossed $6.2 million.) The studio plans to expand Silver Linings into more theaters soon, and the good news is that the movie keeps knocking out those audiences who do see it. Oprah Winfrey tweeted to her more than 15 million followers that she found it ”delightful”; Ryan Seacrest also tweeted its praises. ”We’re very proud of the movie,” says Weinstein’s Glasser, who notes that the company didn’t just acquire the film at a festival but rather developed the adaptation from scratch. ”There’s an emotional investment when you’ve been there from the beginning.” Here’s hoping the end doesn’t come anytime soon.

Silver Linings Playbook
  • Movie
  • 122 minutes