Is Cinea a contender?

Screener system scores Oscar victory

By now, Oscar hopefuls know if they’re in the race.

But still to be determined is whether the screener system — and Cinea specifically — is a winner.

Cinea’s major victory occurred months ago, when Disney signed on to send out its award hopefuls on the antipiracy format.

Smaller wins followed as Universal and New Line agreed to test Cinea out in the U.K. for BAFTA voters, along with Blighty distrib Redbus.

In total, 15 movies were sent as Cinea-encrypted screeners.

The encrypted DVDs, which only work on a special player sent for free to every AMPAS, BAFTA, HFPA, SAG nominating committee, and critics’ circle member, could claim some success in Blighty, where pics on Cinea discs got 18 noms. Of course, that’s assuming they wouldn’t have gotten noms in the first place, which is always a stretch.

But to really score a triumph with the Hollywood studios that Cinea is hoping to impress, Disney movies would have to make a big showing at the Oscar noms.

Looks like that won’t happen, but Cinea said its player had been registered by 74% of the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (players have to be registered to work).

Perhaps more notably, in the U.K., where big movies like “Brokeback Mountain,” “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Munich” were available in the Cinea format only, 93% of BAFTA members registered their Cinea players.

In sum, 78% of the approximately 13,000 Cinea players sent were registered.

But, as with all Oscar-related stories, no one will ever know the cause and effect. Did all of those 78% actually watch discs on their machines? Did Disney’s “Shopgirl” disappoint in Oscar tallies because nobody watched the disc, or because voters watched it but didn’t vote for it? Did “Brokeback” and “Good Night” do well at BAFTA because of the screeners, or because voters had seen them on the bigscreen?

Ever since the studios tried to curtail screeners, the discs have been a factor in the awards season, with tales of pirated copies and proposed solutions that may or may not work.

Then there’s Lionsgate, which sent a whopping 130,000 discs of “Crash” — including to every member of the Screen Actors Guild. Pic won the guild’s ensemble prize on Sunday.

In a way, Lionsgate’s strategy was the opposite of Disney’s. While the indie sent its film to as many voters as possible, upping the odds copies could be pirated, the Mouse House focused on minimizing piracy, with the result that at least 26% of Oscar voters didn’t watch its screeners.

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