Some Oscar nominees could get b.o. boost

'Education' likely to benefit; many others already on DVD

Oscar spreading the love to 10 best-picture nominees diminishes films' prospects for a big boxoffice bounce, with movies deep into theatrical runs least likely to benefit.

Sony Pictures Classics' "An Education," however, is well-positioned and will broaden distribution tenfold after drawing nominations for best picture, actress Carey Mulligan and adapted screenplay. The British drama will expand Friday from 75 theaters to more than 750 venues.

Elsewhere among best-picture nominees, gains will vary in proportion to how widely a film already has been distributed. For those in DVD release, benefits mostly are reflected in disc sales.

"The Academy nominations always create additional interest and excitement," Regal Cinemas senior vp marketing Dick Westerling said. "We certainly focus our marketing efforts on maximizing exposure for the nominated films that are still playing in theaters. Moviegoers are always eager to see what films are nominated, compare them to their favorites and watch the ones they may have missed."

Exhibitors love that twice as many films will compete in the much-watched category. But individual films seeking to capitalize on such acclaim will have twice the competition for moviegoers' attention.

Still, cost-effectiveness aside, Academy accolades can't hurt a pic's marketing.

Summit Entertainment will resume modestly broader distribution of "The Hurt Locker," a best-picture favorite after recently copping feature-film awards from the oft-prescient DGA and PGA. The Iraq War drama, which is tied with "Avatar" for most Oscar noms with nine, has been playing in just a few dozen theaters since November, when it wound down a six-month theatrical run.

With $12.7 million in domestic b.o. and a $16.1 million global tally, "Hurt Locker" will re-expand from 28 domestic playdates to 100-plus starting Friday. Maple Pictures is distributing in Canada.

"We're just proud of being associated with the movie," Summit chief Rob Friedman said. "It shows we can handle all kinds of movies with all kinds of release patterns."

"Hurt Locker" never hit wide release, boasting 535 theaters at its theatrical apex. The pic about a war-zone bomb squad was released Jan. 12 on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

For "Avatar," with more than $2 billion in worldwide boxoffice already in the till, it's hard to see Academy acclaim translating into a surge, but it might bolster the pic's theatrical legs.

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The situation stands in contrast to "Avatar" helmer James Cameron's experience with best-picture Oscar winner "Titanic," which unspooled on Dec. 19, 1997. "Avatar" launched from a similar point in the release calendar, but "Titanic" charted a more leisurely course with its $1.84 billion worldwide haul in a seven-month journey featuring a notable surge after its 11-Oscar haul.

Four of the other best-picture nominees, "A Serious Man," "Inglourious Basterds," "Up" and "District 9," are in home entertainment release. The balance of category nominees -- Lionsgate's "Precious," Warner Bros.' "The Blind Side" and Paramount's "Up in the Air" -- will add a modest number of theaters in coming weekends.

Meanwhile, a smaller b.o. bounce also is possible from noms in other categories.

Fox Searchlight delayed setting the Jeff Bridges starrer "Crazy Heart" for wide release until this weekend, hoping for promo bang from a best actor nom. With that nom -- and two others -- secured, "Crazy Heart" will expand Friday from 239 playdates to about 800.

"Food, Inc." director Robert Kenner said the best-doc nomination for his food-industry expose should help its DVD sales.

"We're already the No. 1 seller on Amazon," he boasted.
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