Second-guessing studios' Oscar campaigns

Thu Jan 14, 2010 1:15pm EST
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By Alex Ben Block

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - When Summit Entertainment sent out the DVD of "The Hurt Locker" to awards voters, it did so in early December, even though the critically acclaimed war drama had been released theatrically in late June. This was one of numerous decisions that will now impact the movie's Oscar chances.

Was Summit right?

"There is this sort of misperception in the media that we sent out our DVDs late," notes Cynthia Swartz, the PR maven at 42West who is masterminding "Locker's" Oscar strategy. "It wasn't about saving money; when DVDs arrive, it costs the same in September or December. We made a strategic decision."

All across town, studios and indies are making similar calls as they enter the later stages of awards season. In some cases, where it's clear a movie stands little chance of being named best picture at the Oscars -- as with the Weinstein Co.'s "Nine" or Paramount's "The Lovely Bones" -- that means spending less than either studio might otherwise have done.

In other cases, as with "Locker," which scooped a fistful of critics' prizes and then snagged a Producers Guild of America nomination, too, it means adding a final push much larger than Summit may have anticipated when the film was first released -- which is why about 11,000 copies of "Locker's" script have gone out in beautiful, bound editions to members of the Writers Guild of America.

For almost every contender, campaigns change as they enter these last weeks.

"If you have multiple pictures, you shift your resources toward what works," says Bob Berney, president of Apparition, which has "The Young Victoria" in contention for Emily Blunt, but which has effectively seen its other contender, "Bright Star," lose steam.

That's something Sony Pictures Classics is keen to avoid with "An Education," which received a PGA nomination for best picture but failed to be nominated for anything except best actress (drama) at the Golden Globes for Carey Mulligan.   Continued...

<p>Large Oscar statues are seen before getting a fresh coat of paint by scenic artists near Los Angeles October 19, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>