Acad hopefuls see DVD sales spike

An Oscar nomination can be the gift that keeps on giving.

Five months after it first hit stores, DVD sales for Lionsgate’s “Crash” jumped 150% last week after the film scored six noms, including picture.

Also getting huge bumps were Universal Studios Home Entertainment’s “Cinderella Man” and “The Constant Gardener.” The figures are significant because studios typically generate more than half of their DVD sales in the first six days of release, after which they drop off markedly.

DVD of “Crash,” the only best picture nominee on disc, sold 45,300 copies last week. Lionsgate has shipped 4.5 million copies so far and is keeping a close watch on store inventories.

“It’s almost like it’s getting a second wind,” Lionsgate prexy Steve Beeks said.

DVD sales of “Gardener” and “Cinderella,” both nominated in supporting acting categories, also jumped more than 100% last week, according to Universal, which declined to provide actual figures.

Paramount’s “Hustle & Flow,” with two noms, saw disc sales climb 14%, with 2 million copies shipped.

While box office bumps often get the most attention after the Oscar noms, the DVD world is increasingly playing a key role.

In some cases, studios have changed the release date of a film to ensure that its DVD debut will coincide with awards season. In other instances, studios accelerate a DVD’s release to capitalize on the Oscar recognition.

Universal had great success with such pics as “Seabiscuit,” “Ray” and “Lost in Translation,” whose DVDs bowed during kudos time.

U homevid will save its two best-pic hopefuls, “Brokeback Mountain” and “Munich,” until after the March 5 Academy Awards.

“Every title’s released when it’s most appropriate for that title,” said homevid topper Craig Kornblau. “DVD campaigns don’t drive critical recognition. It’s much more about taking advantage of the waves of awards campaigns.”

Award-season DVD launches “allow these titles to catch a huge ride on buzz that’s generated and achieve DVD sales we would never hit if there was not such massive awareness,” he said.

The studio is releasing “Pride & Prejudice” in the week leading up to the ceremony. Warner’s “North Country,” which garnered noms for Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand, also arrives before the kudocast.

Releasing an Academy Award winner after the ceremony still promises the biggest bump, which is why many studios target their releases post-Oscars — and why hopefuls wait until after nominations to confirm their homevid plans.

After noms were announced last week, studios rushed out a series of DVD announcements for the have-nots and have-less. Among them: contender also-rans like “Jarhead” and pics that earned noms, just not as many as once hoped. Disney’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” which earned three noms in tech categories, arrives April 4, while Warners’ single-nom “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” hits stores March 7. Sony’s “Memoirs of Geisha,” which boasts six nominations, but none in the major categories, arrives March 28. “Jarhead” debuts on disc March 7, Sony’s “Breakfast on Pluto” on April 18.

In the meantime, Lionsgate is taking out full-page ads in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times to remind readers to look for “Crash” on DVD.

“When you release a pic in the first half of the year, you have to remind people about the movie,” Beeks said. “Then you’ve got a fighting chance.”

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