Warner Bros. is moving up the release date of Clint Eastwood's Japanese-language "Letters From Iwo Jima" -- the companion pic to "Flags of Our Fathers" -- from Feb. 9 to Dec. 20.
New frame puts "Letters" up for awards consideration, with Warners planning to make the film available to critics groups and guilds in its limited run.
Pic will open in L.A. and New York, and possibly in San Francisco.
Eastwood approached Warners about the date change for "Letters" after consulting with Steven Spielberg, who brought in Eastwood to direct "Flags" for DreamWorks.
Spielberg is a producer on both pics.
DreamWorks partnered with Warners on "Flags." The two studios partnered again when Eastwood decided he wanted to shoot a companion picture telling the story of the battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective.
The new Dec. 20 date was locked in early Wednesday evening, as Eastwood was in Japan to promote "Letters," which hadn't been set to open until Feb. 9.
Paramount is distributing "Flags" in the U.S., where it has grossed $31 million at the box office. Warners is distributing the film overseas, where it has taken in more than $13.3 million.
Warners has worldwide distrib rights to "Letters."
Timing on the late-year announcement is unusual, but not unprecedented.
In October 2004, WB announced it would release Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" in December, which caused some last-minute scrambling to book screens and work up a campaign for the film's bow, in addition to its kudos strategy. The film won four Oscars, including best picture.
Other directors have had two films competing for kudos attention in the same year, including Steven Soderbergh with "Erin Brockovich" and "Traffic." (He was Oscar nommed for both, winning for the latter.)
But nobody has two companion pieces in the same year; Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trio were released a year apart.
A big awards question is whether the two films will compete for attention; whether there is room for both in major Oscar categories; or whether kudos voters will view Eastwood's twin pics as two sides of the same coin and honor both by voting for one. (Some theorized that the Oscar wins for the third "LOTR" was in effect recognition of the entire trilogy.)