‘Beautiful’ bounce is coming to mind

Top pic may see b.o. bump

Universal/Imagine’s “A Beautiful Mind” is beautifully positioned for box office bounce from its best-pic Oscar — but nothing’s guaranteed, mind you.

An unusually crowded release sked has had distribs fighting tooth-and-nail to secure screens for wide openers. So even Oscar’s darling could get roughed up a bit when thrown into that kind of fray.

“There’s been big box office in the recent marketplace, and there are four more wide releases coming in over the Easter break,” noted Dan Marks, exec veep at B.O. tracker ACNielsen EDI. “That will make it harder to get screens than you might ordinarily suspect. But I have to believe exhibitors will also want to get as much additional revenue as possible from the winning film.”

“Mind” played in 1,445 domestic theaters this weekend, down from a peak 2,250 playdates marked a few weeks back. Ron Howard-helmed drama has figured among the top 10 theatrical grossers each of the past 14 weekends, with its estimated domestic cume hitting $154.9 million through Sunday.

“If there are screens out there to be added, we will,” U distribution topper Nikki Rocco vowed.

Meanwhile, a couple smaller pics that copped statuettes in other categories should also see new B.O. oomph.

United Artists-distribbed “No Man’s Land” from Bosnia and Herzegovina has unspooled in only a few dozen venues to date, grossing under $3 million domestically. But the gritty war drama is now assured a new push from the specialty distrib, thanks to a successful run at the best foreign pic statuette.

“No Man’s” helmer Danis Tanovic thanked UA topper Bingham Ray for a “great job of promoting my film” in acceptance remarks. Distrib’s Academy campaign had to overcome the greater commercial cachet of Miramax’s French-lingo foreign pic hopeful “Amelie.”

And Lions Gate has been hoping awards recognition could catapult its “Monster’s Ball” drama to cross into broad commercial success from its arthouse base, and the historic best actress win for African-American thesp Halle Berry could finally accomplish that. To date, prison drama — which co-stars Billy Bob Thornton — has grossed $17.6 million domestically, but it’s yet to reach truly wide distribution.

Warner Bros. will be much less able to exploit a similarly notable best-actor win for “Training Day” topliner Denzel Washington, however. Police drama was re-released for a limited new theatrical run after thesp’s Academy nom was announced, but with almost $80 million already rung up domestically, there’s a good chance “Training” has seen its best theatrical day.

Historically, the best-pic Oscar has stoked a winner’s B.O. heat almost overnight. Over the past 10 years, a best-pic Oscar win has translated into about a 25% gain in a film’s final domestic gross.

There’s usually a substantial bounce in the winner’s foreign B.O. as well, and this year should be no different. “Beautiful Mind” is still playing in most territories, so Oscar’s glow should add significant luster worldwide.

But whether domestically or otherwise, the benefits of a best-pic win are biggest when a title is early in its release trajectory. With that in mind, no best-pic contender was ideally postured to enjoy dramatic new life this year, and that’s just the way it goes sometimes.

Last year’s best-pic winner, “Gladiator,” was already in homevid-DVD release by the time DreamWorks’ Roman epic copped five Academy Awards, including best pic. So though the film grossed $187.7 million domestically and $457 million worldwide, “Gladiator” earned only $800,000 of its theatrical grosses after its Oscar wins.

Similarly, 20th Century Fox’s “Moulin Rouge” is practically out of theaters, having already entered home-entertainment release. Quirky musical danced worldwide theatrical cume to about $175 million.

New Line’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” is still in 1,317 domestic theaters, and distrib had hoped a best-pic win might allow adapted fantasy to re-expand above 1,800. Estimated domestic cume for “Rings” was already a boffo $297.6 million through Sunday.

Miramax mounted a platformed rollout for its “In the Bedroom,” but the Sissy Spacek starrer recently began shedding a few screens and its theater count stood at 688 this weekend. “Bedroom” has grossed an estimated $34.3 million domestically.

And USA Films’ “Gosford Park” has slipped to fewer than 900 engagements. Robert Altman-helmed period laffer’s domestic cume is parked at about $37 million.

Paramount/Fox’s 1997 blockbuster “Titanic” is often cited as having greatly exploited Oscar’s best-pic bounce, but much of that was on the strength of pic’s Academy noms rather than its wins. “Titanic” enjoyed an impressive 47% rise in domestic B.O. after noms were announced but got a less-than-titanic 21% boost after winning. By contrast, U’s 1993 release “Schindler’s List” saw a 61% B.O. gain after its best-pic success.

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