Oscar wins could boost 'Hurt' revenue

Any increase is likely to come from home entertainment

Maybe the DVDs will sell -- accent on the word "maybe."

With five of the 10 category nominees already on shiny disc, there was always a good chance that Oscar's best pic winner this year would be unable to exploit much of a boxoffice bounce from the success.

Summit Entertainment opened "The Hurt Locker" in limited theatrical release on June 26, ringing up $14.7 million in domestic boxoffice to date. The Iraq War thriller was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on Jan. 12.

When "Hurt Locker" morphed into an Oscar nominations magnet on Feb. 2, there was little Summit could do to exploit the film notably further theatrically. For better or worse, its Oscar bounce was going to come in home entertainment or not at all.

Still, revenue is revenue, right? Yes and no.

Certainly, Academy acclaim enhances marketing. But there is a twofold problem with exploiting Oscar renown in home entertainment: The popularity of DVD is on the decline, and the installed base of Blu-ray Disc players remains relatively modest.

The latter concern keeps James Cameron's "Titanic" out of Blu-ray release 12 years after its best pic win.

One top distribution exec at a rival studio recently summed up the situation with "Hurt Locker."

"If they had released that movie later, it would have done a lot more boxoffice based on winning the Oscar," the exec observed. "But they're going to make money on this movie -- they just have to make more of it in DVD."

"Hurt Locker" seems to be doing well enough on DVD. The title has generated solid if unspectacular sales, at 710,000 units including electronic downloads, and has ranked among the top 10 rental titles since its debut on disc.

Now playing in 274 theaters, "Hurt Locker" will roughly double its playdates next weekend. But the re-expansion doesn't so much key on anticipated b.o. as it does the simply notion of "why not?"

Elsewhere in the Academy Awards afterglow, moviegoers' hearts might beat faster for "Crazy Heart" after the best actor statuette went to Jeff Bridges. Or not.

Fox Searchlight plans on boosting "Crazy" distribution on Friday to about 1,500 theaters, up from a current 1,274. But considering its $2,630 venue average during the past weekend, there seems scant chance the country music drama will be piling boxoffice dramatically higher than its $29.6 million cume to date.

Cameron's "Avatar" will be the most-watched best pic also-ran in the coming months and is expected to hit DVD in April. But a 3D version of its Blu-ray release isn't likely any time this year.

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Meantime, it must be noted that doubling the number of best-pic nominees this year failed to generate commensurate boxoffice. In fact, the 10 nominees enjoyed less of an Oscars bounce than half as many category pics a year ago.

Best-pic nominees rung up $135 million in U.S. and Canadian coin between the nominations and the final pre-Oscars weekend. Last year's five nominees registered $146 million during a comparable span.
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