Betting on a b.o. bounce

Best pic nominees, early in their rollouts, are poised for a bump

Four of the five best picture Oscar nominees are in the midst of platform campaigns, making them prime candidates for a boxoffice bounce from Academy acclaim.

Historically, films that go on to win best picture have padded domestic grosses by substantial double-digit percentages, and some of that Oscar magic starts to take hold immediately after the Academy nominations. Nielsen data show that best picture nominees in the ascendancy of incremental rollouts tend to get the biggest bump.

Last year, platformers "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country for Old Men" added to their pre-nom domestic cumes by 97% and 50%, respectively, in the three weeks following the Oscar noms.

Here's how this weekend is shaping up for the best picture nominees:

The Weinstein Co. intends to broaden "Reader" significantly Jan. 30.

"Next weekend, we're going to do a television campaign and go very wide," distribution boss Steve Bunnell said. "It will definitely be north of 1,000, and we're working on that now. This has been a happy surprise."

Meanwhile, amid less Oscar publicity than anticipated, Warner Bros.' boxoffice behemoth "The Dark Knight" — more than a month after hitting DVD — returns to 350 theaters, including 147 Imax venues. The Christopher Nolan-helmed pic fetched eight noms, but other than a supporting actor mention for Heath Ledger, all came in craft categories.

The Batman sequel has rung up almost $1 billion in worldwide boxoffice and was positioned to take advantage of a possible wealth of higher-profile Oscar noms. Now, without a best picture nom, there's some question how lucrative the theatrical return will be.

Similarly, Paramount Vantage's "Revolutionary Road," from DreamWorks and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, was shut out of most major categories, attracting supporting actor, art direction and costume design noms. But in contrast to the "Dark Knight" disappointment, "Road" could have used some promo help in expanding wide this weekend — broadening from 171 locations to 1,058 — as it seeks to boost its four-frame tally of $6.1 million.

Elsewhere, Searchlight brings "The Wrestler" to an additional 422 theaters for a total of 566 playdates after attracting best actor and supporting actress noms for Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei.

And Sony Pictures Classics' animated "Waltz With Bashir" could see greater commercial traction after copping a nom in the foreign-language category, whose nominees tend to enjoy boosted profiles.

"Bashir," which totes a cume of about $400,000 through four frames, expands from nine U.S. and five Canadian playdates to 25 U.S. and six Canadian engagements. E1 is handling Canadian distribution. (partialdiff)
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