Studios ready for Oscar bounce

Expansions, more ads for nommed pics

Hollywood distributors on Friday will re-expand several Oscar-nominated films still plugging away in various corners of the marketplace, with studios' media buys supporting both the renewed theatrical runs and the films' campaigns for Oscar gold.

In the case of Warner Bros.' "Michael Clayton" — set to climb back to about 1,000 playdates — the aim seems less about padding its nearly $40 million domestic cume than reminding voters what they liked about the George Clooney starrer. Nominated in seven categories including best picture, "Clayton" is set to hit DVD five days before the Feb. 24 Academy Awards ceremony.

But Oscar's much-sought theatrical bounce could mean a lot more to two other best picture nominees: Focus Features' "Atonement" and Fox Searchlight's "Juno." "Atonement," toting a $32.7 million cume, seeks to add engagements to its total of 1,291, and "Juno" — which already has grossed $87.1 million — will bolster a 2,534-theater run.

The two other film nominees fall somewhere in between those expecting a theatrical bounce and those aiming to influence Academy voting or to sell DVDs.

Miramax will widen its Paramount Vantage co-production "No Country for Old Men" from 818 theaters to about 1,500 — the film has almost $50 million rung up so far — while Par Vantage will boost engagements for the Miramax co-production "There Will be Blood" from 389 venues to about 800 in the hope of boosting its $8 million-plus cume.

Some specialty distributors expanding films this weekend have been counting on just such awards-season buzz to maintain their films' platforming momentum.

"This has just simply been the game plan all along — not that we ever took a best picture nomination for granted," Focus chief James Schamus said. "But 'Atonement' is a picture that is poised to build enormous momentum."

Acting kudos also can goose theatrical campaigns.

Other than some best picture nominees, the only still-vital titles figuring in lead actor categories are the DreamWorks/Paramount musical "Sweeney Todd," whose Johnny Depp is nominated for actor, and Fox Searchlight's "The Savages," for which Laura Linney drew an actress nom. "Sweeney" has taken in $49 million so far domestically; "Savages" is stalking the $4 million mark.

Supporting actress nom Cate Blanchett could generate buzz — and hence biz — for the Weinstein Co.'s "I'm Not There," a $3.5 million grosser playing in dozens of art houses. And Miramax's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" aims to make good use of its four noms.

"I can't recall a movie at this point in such limited release that has gotten four key nominations. So that has huge potential for the film," Miramax president Daniel Battsek said.

Sneaking up on a $3 million cume, "Diving Bell" is expected to add to its 107 playdates.

Gregg Kilday in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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