'Sunshine' sales spike in forecast

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"Little Miss Sunshine" is one of five best picture Oscar nominees but the only one currently available on DVD. That puts the film, released on DVD in December by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, in the enviable position of potentially realizing a significant sales boost from all the Academy Awards buzz.

"The Oscar bump traditionally happens at the boxoffice, but we are looking for the results at cash registers," said Steve Feldstein, the Fox video division's senior vp corporate and marketing communications.

Accordingly, on Tuesday, when the Oscar nominations were announced, Fox sent a note to journalists headlined "Little Best Picture" that trumpeted the fact that the comedy -- about a quirky family on a quest to have their daughter win the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant -- is the only best picture nominee already out on DVD.

Sales of "Sunshine" on Tuesday at retail stores nationwide jumped between 60% and almost 200%, Fox research shows.

"We're looking forward to this weekend," Feldstein said, "just as exhibitors are for the other best picture nominees."

A year ago, Lionsgate's "Crash" was in a similar position. The film had been released on DVD the previous September and experienced a sales spike when Oscar noms were revealed. It also used the film's DVD availability to fuel its Oscar campaign, sending 130,000 screeners to critics groups, including all 100,000 SAG members. "Crash" went on to win best picture.

Whether the release of "Sunshine" on the eve of awards season helped snag the film a nom isn't clear, but observers said it lifted the film's profile at a critical time.

"The best marketing tool for this film happened to be the film itself," Feldstein said. "The promotional wave of the DVD release may have contributed to the film getting a nomination, but it did quite well at the boxoffice and really stands on its own merits."

Other Oscar-nominated films are in the DVD pipeline. Fellow best picture nominees "The Departed," from Warner Home Video (Feb. 13), and "Babel," from Paramount Home Entertainment (Feb. 20), are slated to arrive on DVD before the Feb. 25 Academy Awards ceremony.
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