After risky campaign, "Town" courts Oscar voters

Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:28am EDT
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By Gregg Kilday

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Warner Bros. took a risk. Its poster for "The Town," Ben Affleck's new movie about a gang of Boston bank robbers, featured a startling image: gun-wielding, masked nuns in front of an armored van.

If it hadn't beaten expectations and opened as the weekend's No. 1 movie, the Monday-morning quarterbacks probably would have dismissed the marketing move as a misguided effort that looked more like "Nuns on the Run" by way of screaming-man artist Edvard Munch.

But in the wake of "Town's" $23.8 million bow, Warners scored a genuine hit, Affleck buffed up his bona fides as a director, and the debate has begun over whether the movie will develop the momentum that will take it into Oscar season.

Prognosticators last week suggested that the movie would open with about $15 million, coming in at No. 2 behind fellow rookie "Easy A."

But during the past two weeks, "Town" was busy building momentum, which isn't always easy to measure. Affleck accompanied the drama to the Venice International Film Festival, where it had its world premiere September 8; three days later, the director and his cast moved to Toronto where they chatted it up to the North American press; then it had its U.S. premiere September 14 at Boston's Fenway Park, where the movie's climactic heist is set.

Affleck also found time to work the morning TV shows and their late-night counterparts.

"In the past 10 days, you could feel everything coming together," said Sue Kroll, Warners president of worldwide marketing. "It's a movie that's both appreciated by the critics and that audiences like. And the campaign and the cast was everywhere. When the results come together like that, it's all very gratifying. Ben and the cast did everything we asked of them."

Kroll had been a fan of Affleck's first directorial effort, "Gone Baby Gone," which Miramax released in 2007. Another Boston-set crime thriller, the movie earned good reviews -- and an Oscar nomination for Amy Ryan -- but it opened to just $5.5 million, ultimately grossing $20.3 million domestically.   Continued...