Good Night, and Good Luck Oscar nominee David Strathairn.
Oscar can be the ticket to success for an art-house movie. This past weekend, Best Picture nominees Brokeback Mountain, Good Night, and Good Luck, and Munich expanded their theatrical runs, and in the case of Capote, the film expanded to more than 1,200 screens
across the country (adding 875 screens to its release). It’s all part of a calculated campaign by the studios to parlay their multiple Academy Award nominations into box office gold, and in some cases, it appears to be working.
Although traditionally the biggest audience bump has come from a movie’s Oscar win, the aura of a nomination can transform a small movie into a major release. Five years ago, for example, Brokeback’s director Ang Lee watched his foreign language film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon catch fire at the U.S box office after it garnered ten Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.
In a recent Fandango poll, 66% of moviegoers indicated they plan to see at least one or all of the remaining Best Picture nominees. Separately, advance ticket sales this past week for Capote and Good Night, and Good Luck on Fandango increased dramatically, by 227% and 325% respectively.
Here’s a quick look at the vital stats of this year’s five Best Picture nominees, along with the prognosis on which one stands to benefit most from the Academy’s consideration and, most crucially, that all-important win on March 5th. We’ve also included results as of press time from another Fandango poll asking moviegoers which Best Picture nominee they’re most likely to see in the weeks ahead.
Studio: Focus Features
Release Date: December 9th, 2005
Running Time: 2 hours, 14 minutes
Fandango Poll: 20% voted it as the nominated picture they’d most like to see.
This R-rated flick just passed the $50 million domestic box office mark, and continues to be fodder for late night talk show hosts (a live-from-Superbowl Detroit Jimmy Kimmel ran across the Canadian border last week to comically hype the Alan Thicke-Dave Coulier starrer Brokeback Mountie; Jay Leno had bandleader Kevin Eubanks and his drummer starring in Broback Mountain; etc.).
The buzz in Hollywood, suddenly, is that Screen Actors Guild Awards winner Crash may actually stand a chance of upsetting Brokeback in the Best Picture category (but that wisdom conveniently ignores the fact that the SAG honor was for the “Outstanding Performance by a Cast”, not for the picture itself). Nevertheless, the odds are that Brokeback will win Best Picture and that its helmer Ang Lee will walk away with the Oscar for Best Director, as he has already received the Directors Guild of America honor (and it’s rare that a DGA winner fails to duplicate the feat on Oscar night)..
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Release Date: September 30th, 2005
Running Time: 1 hour, 54 minutes
Fandango Poll: 9% voted it as the nominated picture they’d most like to see.
The brain trust of Sony Pictures Classics, Tom Bernard and Marci Bloom, are masters when it comes to nurturing small independent and foreign films, and their handling of Bennett Miller’s brilliant directorial debut is a textbook case of platform releasing.
Thanks in part to an extensive PR campaign by leading man Philip Seymour Hoffman (who is already planning a long vacation right after March 5th), Capote has three months’ worth of good will and great reviews behind it as it finally opens wide.
Studio: Lions Gate Films
Release Date: May 6th, 2005
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Fandango Poll: 19% voted it as the nominated picture they’d most like to see.
When Paul Haggis’ provocative ensemble drama snagged the ensemble cast award at this year’s SAG Awards, many pinned the win to the fact that, for its first time ever, Lions Gate sent out a DVD of Crash to every single one of the nearly 100,000 Screen Actors Guild members. Lions Gate deserves credit for that bold and unusual marketing move.
DVD is where it’s at for Crash, available on the shelves since last September. Its domestic box office total sits right around Brokeback’s current mark, and while there may be a limited theatrical re-release in the offing if it pulls off the upset on March 5th, the likely biggest box office trickle for this drama will be in overseas markets.
Good Night, and Good Luck
Studio: Warner Independent
Release Date: October 7th, 2005
Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Fandango Poll: 13% said it’s the nominated picture they’d most like to see.
As the only PG-rated Best Picture nominee in this year’s bunch, George Clooney’s polemic may well enjoy the biggest overall box office gain when all is said and done. It’s a testament to both Clooney’s likeability and his tireless marketing of the film to Academy voters – he’s done more q&a’s than any other 2005 frontrunner principal – that his was the film that ostensibly knocked the less-politically-charged Walk the Line out of the running for the Picture category.
Like Capote, Good Night expanded this weekend to its highest theatrical reach (929 theatres). And while Clooney has a better chance of winning in the Best Supporting Actor category with Syriana (upsetting a sentimental favorite Cinderella Man’s Paul Giamatti), the Clooney-factor will likely draw a very healthy clip of moviegoers to his black-and-white biopic right up until March 5 when Oscar host Jon Stewart takes over the political baton.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Release Date: December 13th, 2005
Running Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes
Fandango Poll: 27% voted it as the nominated picture they’d most like to see.
The most tantalizing thing about Munich is that, like Catch Me If You Can, it looks and feels like something completely different from Steven Spielberg. He immerses himself in the thriller genre with a sure but somewhat invisible guiding hand. And with the new Bond film Casino Royale having finally started production this past week, there is a real opportunity to remind American audiences that this is their best chance yet to get acquainted with 007 number six, Daniel Craig.
Spielberg’s second film of 2005 will of course in no way match the box office totals of his first, War of the Worlds (domestic gross: $234 million). But it should continue to add nicely to its current $40 million range domestic box office total, and will be a monster on DVD.
Send feedback on this column to