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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - One of the surprises when the Golden Globes nominations were announced in December 2008 was the attention given "The Reader," a Holocaust drama that earned nods for best picture, director, screenplay and actress Kate Winslet.
Although the film was not an overwhelming critical favorite, the Weinstein Co.'s strategy of opening it in limited release the weekend of the Globes announcement was prescient. It racked up more than $21,000 per screen in eight theaters that first weekend, jumping 615% to $1.2 million two weeks later and another 140% to $3.6 million two weeks after that.
"The Golden Globes is the first big awards nomination that comes in and it's a great platform," says David Glasser, Weinstein's president of international distribution. "They look at a picture early and it says, 'Hey, this is worth rooting for.'"
The nominations for "Reader" set it on a path to more than $100 million in worldwide box office, an impressive achievement for any drama, especially one with such a difficult theme. Winslet, who played a Nazi, also ended up winning an Oscar for best actress.
The timing of the Globes nominations -- just as awards season is kicking into high gear and before the all-important holiday moviegoing season -- has made the 90-member Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. hugely influential. But just how much is a Globes nomination worth?
It's hard to quantify, but for a film that is positioned properly after the nominations are announced, as "The Reader" was, or expanded to many more theaters after the exposure on the January telecast, there is clearly a major benefit.
That was the case for "Capote" in 2006. Even though the film scored only one Globes nomination, for Philip Seymour Hoffman as lead actor (drama), the film's box office take rose 50% in the week leading up to the show and then jumped 70% the week after Hoffman won, when Sony Pictures Classics tripled its screens.
"It causes your film to really hold up," says Sony Classics co-president Michael Barker. Still, he cautions, "I don't think it could ever cause your film to go into the stratosphere like the Oscars."
"The figures speak for themselves," insists Philip Berk, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. "If a film opens around the time we announce our Golden Globes nominations it has either a bigger-than-expected opening or a huge jump from the previous week. That is why the studios use the Golden Globes as a marketing tool, which is self-evident. It definitely works to their advantage."
The Globes nominees and winners also set the tone for the Academy Awards nominations because the Oscar polls close about at week after the Globes winners are announced.
"It sets an agenda," says Bob Berney, whose Apparition label launched "The Young Victoria" on the Friday after this year's Globes nominations were revealed and the film's star Emily Blunt was nominated for best actress (drama). "It becomes a kind of editor. If you (are an awards voter and) have a pile of DVDs waiting, it says, 'Yeah, that one first.' It calls attention at a time there are a lot of movies coming out."
"People are busy in their own lives and jobs and the Globes nominations come at a time (mid-December) when you're starting to slow down and focus a little bit," says Megan Colligan, co-president of marketing at Paramount. "It also calls out to a consumer that this is a quality way to spend two hours at the movies during the holiday season."
Colligan, like her colleagues at other studios, was quick to tout the leading six Globes nominations earned by Paramount's "Up in the Air" in advance of its December 23 wide release. The Weinstein Co. did the same for its Globes contenders "Nine" and "A Single Man," both of which debuted right after receiving multiple Globes nominations.
"A thought process went into the release dates of those movies," Glasser says. "They weren't just plopped there. They were put down to say, 'We're going to roll into the awards and hopefully, if we're right, it will gain momentum and play through the holiday, the awards season and beyond.'"
Paul Dergarabedian, box office analyst for Hollywood.com, says that while a Globes nom can boost grosses, an Oscar nomination or win still makes a greater impact.
"The reason a picture gets an Oscar bounce is that often, in reaction to a lot of nominations, a studio will put that film in a lot more theaters if it's still playing, or they will reissue it," Dergarabedian says. "I don't think they react as strongly to Globe nominations."
Even for films that opened earlier in the year, a Globes nomination can have value. When timed right, it can boost the home video release. That is potentially the case this year for Summit Entertainment's "The Hurt Locker," Fox Searchlight's "(500) Days of Summer" and the Weinstein Co.'s "Inglourious Basterds," all of which are now on DVD.