'Massive sweep' for Focus


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It was a good Thursday morning for Focus Features CEO James Schamus, who saw his company take pride of place the Golden Globe film nominations.

It also had a charge of deja vu. Two years ago, Focus led the pack with 12 noms as its "Brokeback Mountain" led the field with seven nominations.

This year, Paramount Vantage and Universal specialty division Focus scored 11 noms each. But Focus also could boast the dominate film, "Atonement," with its seven nominations. In addition, it fielded "Eastern Promises" and "Lust, Caution," which earned three and one, respectively. And that's not counting its stake in Paramount Vantage's "Into the Wild," for which Focus is handling non-English international rights. But then, who's counting?

"I'm back from Taipei and I'm on such a high," said Schamus, who co-wrote and executive produced Ang Lee's "Lust," which just won seven Golden Horse awards. (The movie's foreign-language Globe nom helps make up for the "complete absurdity" of the film's disqualification in the foreign-language Oscar race, Schamus said.)

Focus came out of the awards gate slowly this year, gaining little traction with such hopefuls as "Evening," "Reservation Road" and "Talk To Me." But a careful rollout strategy for "Atonement" and a late surge for the dark-horse thriller "Eastern Promises" as well as "Lust" have put it in a pole position. "Today is a massive sweep," Schamus said.

The noms also restore the company to its awards luster of two years ago, when such movies as "Brokeback Mountain" and "Pride & Prejudice," from "Atonement" director Joe Wright, made it an awards season darling.

"It's a mistake to believe any one company can produce an awards-worthy lineup," Schamus said. "It's the company you keep -- great directors and great producers."

But the company also knows that a long race lies ahead: Two years ago "Brokeback" was an early favorite for the best picture Oscar -- it won best drama at the Globes -- but it eventually lost the big one to Lionsgate's "Crash" at the Oscars.

"Atonement," which opened in limited release Dec. 7, is now positioned to ride a Globes rush at the boxoffice. "Lust," possibly hampered by its NC-17 rating, has grossed just $4.3 million domestically to date, but Schamus noted the rating won't pose any problem for its January DVD releases. And "Promises" producer Paul Webster said that despite that film's $17 million gross since it bowed Nov. 4, the recognition will give the film "a new lease on life."