Well there goes one potential Best Picture candidate. 

DHD's broke the news that's been rumored all over town the past few days that Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island" is moving to a February 2010 release date.  Paramount Pictures is not confirming the new date (yet), but outside sources say it's a done deal.

Based on a popular novel by Dennis Lehane, the thriller featured an all-star prestige picture cast including previous Oscar nominees Leonardo DiCaprio, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley, Max von Sydow and Michelle Williams as well as past winner Ben Kingsley.  The trailer, to all accounts, played superbly and the film was considered one of the true potential critical and box office hits of the fall.

The reasons for this move are being debated around town as you read this.  The most obvious is that Paramount didn't have any potential hits on its slate for the first quarter of 2010 so financially -- just like Warner Bros. moving "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" to this summer to provide another strong source of revenue for 2009 (a very smart move in retrospect) - so it made too much sense to leave the film in the fall. Secondly, there are conflicting reports on how the movie actually plays to audiences.  DHD's studio sources says it tests very well in the "high 80s/low 90s," but non-Paramount sources tell Award Season the results are quite the opposite.  Needless to say, with this star power and the materials they already had in the marketplace playability wasn't really an issue.  DHD's sources say Paramount just didn't have the $50-60 million necessary to open the film this year.  A similar fate found Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones" pushed from 2009 to this December almost exactly a year ago.  This excuse still seems strange considering how little competition there was opening against and around "Island" in October.  Would they really have had to spend that much? Especially with the deals this economy is providing with network and cable TV spot rates?  Curious to say at the least.

Somewhere, new AMPAS president Tom Sherak must be pulling his hair out after only a few days on the job.  The prospect of another Scorsese/DiCaprio collaboration (ie, hit) after "The Aviator," "Gangs of New York" and "The Departed" seemed close to a slam dunk to make the new expanded field of 10 Best Picture nominees.  Now, that celebrity factor and potential ratings grabber has moved to a winter date with much less of an awards spotlight.

The benefactors?  Well, this isn't helping the field become more populist that's for sure.  Nothing was guaranteed with "Island" (especially if it isn't as good as it looks), but chances are a smaller picture such as "Precious," "The Informant" or "An Education" could sneak in (if they weren't a favorite already).  More commercial, but critically acclaimed prospects like "Star Trek" or "District 9" still seem like longshots to make the field. It also helps two other Paramount titles "Bones" and Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air" receive more campaigning attention from the company overall.

One thing is for sure, this awards season just get more and more interesting by the day...and it's only August.