February 3, 2010 / 7:29 AM / 8 years ago

"An Education" set to benefit from Oscar nominations

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - With three Oscar nominations under its belt, the British drama "An Education" will expand its theater count tenfold on Friday.

Bolstered by nods for best picture, actress Carey Mulligan and adapted screenplay, the Sony Pictures Classics release will play in more than 750 venues. The film has earned $8.8 million since it began its slow rollout three months ago.

Elsewhere among the 10 best-picture nominees, gains will vary in proportion to how widely a film already has been distributed. For those in DVD release, such as "The Hurt Locker" and "Up," 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."

Movie theater owners are thrilled 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 picture'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 directors and producers guilds. The Iraq War drama, which is tied with "Avatar" for most Oscar nominations 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 box office 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.

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

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

The situation stands in contrast to "Avatar" director James Cameron's experience with best-picture Oscar winner "Titanic," which set sail on December 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 record-tying 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 -- "Precious," "The Blind Side" and "Up in the Air" -- will add a modest number of theaters in coming weekends.

Meanwhile, a smaller box office bounce also is possible from nominees in other categories.

Fox Searchlight delayed setting the Jeff Bridges drama "Crazy Heart" into wide release until this past weekend, hoping for promo bang from a best actor nomination. With that nomination -- and two others -- secured, "Crazy Heart" will expand Friday to about 800 playdates from 239. The film has earned $6.9 million since its December 16 release.

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

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

To read more about our entertainment news, visit our blog "Fan Fare" online at http:/blogs.reuters.com/fanfare/

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