Will Oscar translate at b.o.?<sub18></sub18>
Several films have potential to cash in on awards-season exposureAs the Oscars fade into memory, the question of glory inevitably turns to one of commerce. In this case, what, if any, global boxoffice bump can "Slumdog Millionaire" and its fellow best picture nominees expect?
"Slumdog," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Milk," "Frost/Nixon" and "The Reader" are in various stages of worldwide distribution, and their distributors are eyeing an uptick in interest and boxoffice business for the quintet.
For some, the bonanza is just beginning — Danny Boyle's best picture winner has yet to debut in Germany, for instance — while for others it's a matter of milking the last few drops from a long theatrical run.
In the U.K. and France, "Slumdog" has been in release since the middle of January and is continuing to build on its already established success. Distributed by Pathe, "Slumdog" has grossed just shy of £23 million ($33 million) in Britain. On the Monday after the Oscars, Boyle's film took £234,155 ($336,000) despite having been in release for seven weeks. That's a bigger Monday night than it had during its first, fourth and fifth weeks, according to Nielsen.
The other best film nominees also are well into their theatrical runs in the U.K. and show no immediate signs of an uptick.
For its part, a Pathe spokesperson said the company has no plans to change its "Slumdog" rollout, saying it already is at "maximum capacity" in terms of prints in theaters.
In Germany, Boyle's film is set for release March 19 by ProKino. But there was no sign of an Oscar bump for "Button" as the Brad Pitt starrer was knocked from the top spot by a pair new entries: the Jim Carrey starrer "Yes Man" and local-language kids hit "Lilly the Witch."
Similarly, "Frost/Nixon" which Universal Pictures International is handling in Germany, is nearing the end of its run and unlikely to benefit much from post-Oscar buzz. The Ron Howard film — which was shut out at the Oscars despite five nominations — is expected to generate about €500,000 ($639,000) in Germany, a far cry from blockbuster status, which typically is bestowed on films earning more than 1 million admissions in the territory.
For "Reader," German distributor Senator is hoping the press coverage and Kate Winslet's best actress win will provide a push to the post-Holocaust drama.
Germany's Constantin Film has more modest ambitions for Gus Van Sant's "Milk" but is hoping for an Oscar bump. Constantin timed its release to coincide with the Oscars, pouring "Milk" into theaters the Thursday before the big night.
The strategy paid off, with "Milk" opening to €250,000 ($319,000) and delivering the fourth-best screen average of the weekend.
For some observers, you can forget the "honor just to be nominated" bromide. It's all about winning.
"I think the nominations are only interesting for people in the industry; the average cinemagoer finds all the nominations confusing," said Martin Moskowicz, head of film and television at Constantin. "But if you can put one or, even better, a couple of those little gold men on your posters, it definitely has a positive promotional effect."
Roberto Chicchiero of cinema-monitoring firm Cinetel agreed. "A nomination for the Oscars doesn't usually have much of an impact on a film's sales. A win does."
In France, "Slumdog" passed the 1 million admissions mark the same night it secured its eight Academy Awards, and the film benefited from its Oscar buzz. Last week it sold 150,000 tickets from Wednesday-Sunday alone, an 18% jump from the previous week.
French moviegoers are joining the Oscar party a little late this year, with three of the five best picture contenders yet to hit Gallic screens.
France's SND will release "Milk" on Wednesday, and the distributor is rumored to be set to take over French distribution of "The Reader" after the film's original distributor, TFM, left the movie theatrically homeless earlier in the year. SND is in talks to distribute the film.
Studiocanal will release "Frost/Nixon" on April 1, after delaying the release from January this year.
In India, "Slumdog" has grossed about $5 million in its first three weeks of release, according to its distributor Fox Star Studios. The other Oscar contenders, including "Button" and "Reader," were set to roll out in India during the weekend.
Spanish success for "Slumdog" mirrored the U.K. After two weeks in theaters in Spain, Boyle's film saw its ticket sales jump 105% the day after its Oscar haul. And sales last Monday climbed to more than €161,000 ($206,000), with Spanish distributor Filmax adding an additional 50 copies throughout the territory, bringing the total to 250.
"Button" saw its figures stay the same, with Warners opting to maintain the 461 copies of the film in circulation, while "Reader," also in its second week in Spanish theaters, saw its attendance drop as the week got under way
"The (Oscar) nomination and the Oscar itself were both very good news for us in regard to 'Slumdog Millionaire,' " said Andrea Occhipinti of Italian distributor Lucky Red. "We bought the film before Cannes last year, and we opened in the cinemas on Dec. 5 with about 100 prints. It went down to 60 over the next few weeks and then back up to 80 when the nominations were announced. After it won the Oscar, we made 60 new prints and are now in cinemas with 180. We thought it would be a success, but we didn't know it would reach this level. You need a good film, but you also have to be lucky."
Across Asia, Oscar winners often have a tougher time translating their awards gold into boxoffice coin. Audiences in South Korea, for example, traditionally have been unimpressed by the Academy's picks. A rare exception this year is "Button," which has racked up close to a million admissions since bowing there Feb. 12. But that might be more to do with the power of Brad Pitt in the Far East rather than Oscar glory. "Slumdog," "Reader" and "Milk" open in South Korea next month.
In China, none of this year's winners has been released, and "Milk" likely will be blocked by government censors because of its gay themes. "Slumdog," however, was picked up by China Film Group and is set for a late-March or early-April release.
None of the other Oscar winners has bowed in Japan yet, though "Slumdog" will premiere at the Yubari Film Festival, which kicked off Thursday.
Rebecca Leffler in Paris, Pamela Rolfe in Madrid and Eric J. Lyman in Rome contributed to this report.