Some films are still waiting for an awards bounce


Conventional wisdom holds that the movies getting the biggest boost from awards season attention aren't the big studio blockbusters, but rather the smaller films that need kudos to put them on ticket buyers' radar.

This season is different.

The major studio fare is taking advantage of Golden Globes attention and a number of specialty releases -- so far, at least -- have failed to capitalize on the recognition.

Fox has jumped on the critical praise for its $310 million-plus "Avatar," heavily promoting the film's Globes noms in a way typically reserved for art-house fare. Similarly, major studio releases, from "It's Complicated" (Universal) to "Up in the Air" (Paramount) to "Sherlock Holmes" and "The Blind Side" (both from Warner Bros.), have emphasized Globes noms in ad campaigns. Each of those movies played strongly over the holidays.

On the other hand, several smaller films have not yet seen the so-called "Globes bounce."

Lionsgate had hoped the attention for "Precious" would lure audiences as the critics' darling expanded from 650 to 1,000 theaters during the holidays. Instead, it grossed only $1.1 million the weekend after it scored multiple Globes noms, including best picture (drama). Its per-screen average dropped to just $1,117.

Similarly, the Weinstein Co.'s "Nine" scored five Globes nominations, including best picture (comedy/musical), and opened with an impressive per-screen average of $61,733 on four screens in New York and Los Angeles. But its expansion the following weekend to 1,400 theaters resulted in an underwhelming $3,926 per-screen average, including some declines in revenue at holdover theaters.

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Even Summit's re-release of its critically lauded "The Hurt Locker" on 125 screens the weekend after it scored three Globes noms, including best picture (drama), grossed only $75,000, with a paltry per-screen average of $604. Its total boxoffice haul stands at $12.7 million domestic, though it is poised to be a major hit when it is released on home video on Jan. 12, just as awards season kicks into high gear.

As the season gets going, several of the more specialized releases earning Globes praise -- including Apparition's "The Young Victoria," Fox Searchlight's "Crazy Heart" and Weinstein's "A Single Man" -- are being positioned to play through the winter as kudos pile up. That's especially true this year because the Academy Awards fall on March 7, later than in recent years.

"That's the ultimate, to be in the marketplace through the nominations and the show," says Tom Bernard, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, which has "An Education" and "The Last Station," as well as three of the Globes-nominated best foreign-language films. "Then, if you have a movie that wins, especially if it's a surprise to the mainstream audience, it moves people in -- as happened with 'Capote' (in 2006) when Philip Seymour Hoffman won. That put the movie into another category."

Already in another category is "Up in the Air," which used its six Globes nominations to successfully promote an expansion to nearly 2,000 theaters over the holidays. Its haul stood at $25 million heading into New Year's, with the hope being that it will play all the way to Oscar night and beyond.