Distribs expecting to cash in on noms

Distributors began to implement marketing and distribution strategies Wednesday designed to add to the theatrical box office grosses of the five best picture noms, as they seek the domestic and international spikes from Academy Award consideration.

Miramax’s “The Piano” and Universal’s “In the Name of the Father” will significantly widen this weekend, while U’s “Schindler’s List” reached its high-water mark last weekend. Warner Bros. plans to rerelease “The Fugitive” on a whopping 1,000 screens Friday, and Columbia Pictures has primed “The Remains of the Day” to significantly benefit from Academy Award consideration in the international marketplace.

Regardless of the outcome, a best picture nomination means big bucks. For nominees, a $ 10 million domestic B.O. gross is not unusual between the time of the nomination and the Academy Award ceremony, and last year’s best picture winner, “Unforgiven,” copped another $ 17.5 million after winning the award.

The best picture noms are perhaps most significant to “Schindler’s List,””In the Name of the Father” and “The Piano,” because they broaden the audience for those titles perceived as highbrow.

“The nomination can take a non-mainstream picture and put it smack in the mainstream,” said Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein. He said Miramax plans to go from 450 “Piano” runs last week to 600 this week.

In an unusual twist, Miramax plans to release director Jane Campion’s novel version of “The Piano” in conjunction with the Academy Awards ceremony. If “The Piano” is successful at the Academy Awards, the publishing blitz will be accompanied by release of the pic to about 1,000 screens.

With “In the Name of the Father” perhaps standing to gain the most at the box office from its seven nominations, including best picture, Universal execs will open the picture wide this Friday, upping the number of screens from 155 to 500.

The hope is that the pic, which had garnered $ 6.4 million at the B.O. as of last Sunday, could bring in more than $ 30 million by the time Oscar envelopes are opened. Of “In the Name of the Father,” Miramax’s Weinstein said Universal is in a “terrific position” to capitalize because they’ve gone out small and are prepared to hit “it hard and wide.”

Weinstein added that “In the Name of the Father” is in the “Crying Game” position this year, which is a pretty strong commercial endorsement from a competing distributor. In 1993, “The Crying Game” went from 216 theaters to 800 screens theweekend after the nominations, and grossed roughly $ 35 million of its $ 62 million domestic box office tally in the weeks before the awards ceremony.

U marketing strategists had their pre-Oscar plans in place several days before Wednesday’s announcement, having already upped the number of screens for “Schindler’s List” from 354 to 764 as of last Friday.

“We have no plans to try and reposition either picture right now, because they’ve been showing solid results in the marketplace,” said Bruce Feldman, senior veepee of marketing/national publicity at U.

Campaign carries

As of last Sunday, “Schindler” had brought in $ 29.3 million. Feldman said, “Those numbers indicate that we have an effective campaign in place.”

Another U exec admitted that they will continue to carefully monitor the marketplace in the next few crucial weeks and that both pictures, especially “Schindler,” could be showing on 1,000 screens by the end of March.

While the studio has been sending videotapes of “In the Name of the Father” to Academy voters, there are no plans to send tapes of “Schindler’s List” or “Jurassic Park,” as the belief is that both films must been seen on the big screen.

Many commended Warner Bros. for taking the cagey tack of planning a 1,000 -screen reissue of “The Fugitive” even though only Tommy Lee Jones’ supporting actor nod was viewed as a lock. WB president of worldwide theatrical advertising and publicity Rob Friedman said the studio finalized booking of the picture on Monday on the hunch that director Andy Davis’ pic would land among the hallowed five.

“We were rolling the dice,” Friedman said. “In our opinion, a performance nomination is a wonderful attention getter, but clearly the best picture nomination historically has been more of an impetus” for people to see a pic.

In its 12th week of release, and with a $ 19.5 million gross, “The Remains of the Day” stands to catch at least another $ 2 million in the domestic marketplace. But internationally the movie is primed to cash in from its nominations.

“Between the time of the nominations and the time of the awards, the picture will have opened in 90% of the international territories,” said Columbia TriStar Film Distributors Intl. president J. Edward (Ted) Shugrue. “The picture, which had an international inclination, now has the spin of eight nominations. It could not be a more ripe and seasoned time for the movie.”

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