Togas turn to gold

'Gladiator,' other winners to reap rewards

Now that “Gladiator” has fought its way to best pic glory, the multiple Oscar winner will likely guide its chariot to one last theatrical victory lap.

Brought back by DreamWorks for a small domestic re-release following its Feb. 13 Oscar noms, “Gladiator” is expected to extend that run modestly in major markets even though it’s already in homevideo and DVD distribution.

“Gladiator” is currently playing on under two dozen screens but that could be doubled thanks to the best-pic win, with some new advertising to boot.

The Ridley Scott-helmed epic has grossed roughly $450 million worldwide — $187 million domestically, $263 million abroad — with foreign distribution handled by the UIP consortium for pic co-financer Universal.

DreamWorks’ North American campaign launched May 5 with “Gladiator” opening at $34.8 million from 2,938 engagements.

Winning pics’ post-Oscar bounce is usually bigger domestically than in foreign territories.

But for pics with foreign roll-outs still to come — “Traffic” has yet to hit German or Japan, for instance — there is potential for an overseas bump.

“Traffic” ‘s director Steven Soderbergh surprised with a best director win, and the drug war drama also picked up Oscars for best editing, best adapted screenplay (Stephen Gaghan), and supporting actor (Benicio Del Toro).

Look closer

Historically, Oscar-winning pics have bounced highest when their domestic bows came later in the year and closer to Academy voting.

Oscar’s best pic last year — DreamWorks’ “American Beauty,” a platformed release that opened Sept. 15, 1999 — added $21.6 million in domestic grosses after the Academy Awards, or 17% of its total $130.1 million in domestic B.O.

By contrast, Paramount’s “Forrest Gump,” which bowed widely on July 6, 1994, saw only $12.6 million, or 4% of its total $329.7 million in domestic B.O. after winning the best pic Oscar.

Box-office tracker AC Nielsen EDI calculates that the average best pic winner in recent years has seen about a 16% bounce of its total domestic B.O. after the Academy Awards.

As pics that have been platformed and are still working a commercial-crossover campaign, best pic nominees “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Chocolat” and “Traffic” have the most to gain from the Oscar spotlight.

Wins in categories including best foreign film will help Sony Classics sustain its already-record North American run with “Crouching Tiger,” which has seen the Ang Lee-helmed martial arts fantasy finish in the B.O. top 10 for 13 straight weekends for a domestic cume to date of $106.3 million. “Chocolat” went home statue-less.

Best pic bridesmaid “Erin Brockovich” will look to homevideo and DVD sales and rentals for revenue enhancement from Oscar’s smile upon best-actress topliner Julia Roberts.

Sony Classics’ “Pollock,” currently in limited theatrical release, likely will look to mount an expansion from Marcia Gay Harden’s best supporting actress win. Jackson Pollock biopic has grossed just under $5 million in domestic B.O. in seven weeks.

Meanwhile, there’s something to be said for future box office bragging rights, as well as the general afterglow awards lend to distribs and exhibs alike.

“What is immeasurable about the Oscars is that they highlight movies as a tremendous art form and reinforce the shared social experience of going to the movies,” said Nora Dashwood, chief operating officer of L.A.-based movie chain Pacific Theatres. “This helps our entire industry and its ancillary markets.”

Exhibs are naturally anxious to shore up relations with distribs associated with a winner; in the case of DreamWorks, that studio has won the best pic hardware two years in a row.

That could help the stuio in its current pitch to Universal, Warner Bros., and others about an international distrib and homevideo pact after a current deal with U expires next year.

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