What this release date means for the film's possible contention in any of the major festivals this year is hard to tell. The film could be well on its way to completion with a December release mapped strictly for awards consideration -- an ideal status for the Venice and Toronto festivals' summer run dates -- or the December release could be budgeting some time for additional tinkering in post-production, making the Cannes Film Festival's run in May somewhat of a long shot. Or it could forego the festival route altogether, as There Will Be Blood did. At any rate, the finish line has been charted and the countdown has begun (290 days and counting, fyi).
With this development, as well as the recent news that Jonny Greenwood has completed recording his new soundtrack for the film, it's hard not to feel as though we may be closing in on a teaser. Just keep in mind: it's a long time between now and December, with still plenty of wiggle room for the ad campaign to begin. We know. The suspense is killing us too.
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UPDATE: We have it on good authority from a source close to the production that, despite this official release date, Inherent Vice is prepping for three days of pick-ups and reshoots in late March. So while most of the picture is likely locked and completed, there is some more work to be done here; something to keep in mind when analyzing possible festival premieres and trailer drops.