Cinema owners attending the CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas today saw extended footage of Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, and already one pundit is rating it as an Oscars contender with break-out box office potential.

Shot in NSW and on the Gold Coast, the film is based on the true story of US Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini, who was captured by the Japanese in WW2 after his plane crashed into the Pacific and he spent 47 days on a life-raft.

Universal plans to launch the film on Christmas Day in the US and in January in Australia. It stars Jack O’Connell as Zamperini, Garrett Hedlund (Inside Llewyn Davis), Domhnall Gleeson (About Time), Aussies Jai Courtney, Alex Russell and Ross Langley, Finn Wittrock and Japanese singer/guitarist Miyavi.’s Pete Hammond said Unbroken was the highlight of Universal’s presentation which included Fast & Furious 7, Fifty Shades Of Grey, the Despicable Me sequel Minions, Dumb And Dumber To, Jurassic World, Ted 2 and the Scarlett Johansson action film Lucy.

Jolie was on hand to introduce seven minutes of footage, declaring, “I wanted to make this film because in the end its message is one that we now need more than ever. It’s the journey of a man finding his way out of the darkness and into the light. It is about an imperfect person, one who we and our children can relate to.

"Someone who helps to remind us all what each of us is capable of – to never lose heart, to find brotherhood with our fellow man, to gain strength with our family, to identify our fears and our pain, to come face to face with the darkness and to never, ever give up. We are unbroken.”

Universal's Donna Langley said the project was developed originally as a vehicle for Tony Curtis in 1957.  Since then many directors and actors came and went until a best-selling book about Zamperini came out in 2010 and Jolie resolved to make the film.

"Let the Oscar speculation begin even though it is only March and no one has seen the finished movie yet," Hammond wrote. He also talked up the awards prospects of the film’s DoP Roger Deakins, who has been nominated 11 times but never won, and six-time nominated composer Alexandre Desplat.

“Universal knows what they have here and that is why it grabbed the Christmas Day slot,” said Hammond. “Time will tell but it smells to me like the 2014 Oscar race just got started this morning at CinemaCon.”