Awards pump up 'Departed'

“The Departed” showed renewed signs of life the week after its double Oscar win.

DVD sales, already north of 3 million units by the time of the Academy Awards, accelerated after the film’s wins for picture and director Martin Scorsese. The Oscar bump exceeded Warner expectations for the DVD, which hit shelves Feb. 13 and would normally have dropped way off by its third week on shelves. It was edged out slightly by “Flushed Away” to rank No. 2 on the Rentrak Retail Essentials sales chart for the week ended March 4.

Sales were so close, in fact, that rival sales tracking service VideoScan had “The Departed” returning to the top spot last week and “Flushed Away” dropping to No. 2.

Oscar also goosed DVD sales for “Little Miss Sunshine” and “An Inconvenient Truth,” two older discs. “Little Miss Sunshine” moved up three notches to No. 12 on Rentrak’s weekly sales chart. Sales of “An Inconvenient Truth” doubled over the prior week, but it had been selling at lower levels.

Studios used to hold off releasing contenders on disc until after the kudocast in the belief that strategy maximized the Oscar bump to sales. But in the past few years, studios have begun releasing more contenders in the window between nominations and the ceremony to draft off buzz.

This year was the first Warner had tried the strategy, however. The studio decided to release “The Departed” on disc and simultaneously re-release it in theaters.

“It was new for us,” admitted Mike Saksa, Warner Home Video senior VP-general manager for theatrical new release marketing. “It’s really worked.”

Lionsgate followed a similar strategy last year with “Crash,” but there was less overlap between the theatrical and homevid windows. “Crash” was first released on disc in September, then re-released in theaters during the kudos season.

And Fox homevid had great success issuing “Walk the Line” on disc the week leading up to the Oscars last year; it also got a boost when Reese Witherspoon won the actress statuette.

Saksa said the success of both “Crash” and “The Departed” should put to rest once and for all the old stigma about releasing contenders on disc.

“This shows it’s not an either/or game,” Saksa said.

“An Inconvenient Truth” DVD sales, meanwhile, jumped 103% the week after its double Oscar win. The doc, first ever to win two Oscars, has sold more than 1 million discs since its Nov. 19 bow, a healthy number for a documentary. Besides doc, “Inconvenient Truth” scored an original song statuette for Melissa Etheridge.

And “Little Miss Sunshine” got a boost from Alan Arkin’s supporting actor win. Pic, which won the Indie Spirit award on Oscar eve, had sold around 3 million units by the time of the Academy Awards. According to Fox, post-Oscar week sales were five times higher than normal for a title out that long in the market. “Little Miss Sunshine,” which hit shelves Dec. 19, already enjoyed an Oscar bump upon its nominations in January; sales quadrupled the following week.

Pic has been a top-20 seller on disc ever since.

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