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DVD mailers drum up support

Smaller films benefit from screener system

While public relations consultants, studios and filmmakers might have different views on how to bring a film to the attention of Academy members and press during the awards season, they all agree on one thing — the DVD mailer is an essential part of anything they do.

Of the many films that have benefited in the past few years as DVD mailers have grown — and spawned controversy within the Academy — none has gained as much as “Crash.” After its successful B.O. run, Lionsgate sent out thousands of screeners in the fourth quarter. The reminder helped the film, which went on to win three Oscars, including picture.

For smaller films that receive limited distribution, the DVD mailer can become even more vital. It’s a way to find the audience that might have missed those pics during their theatrical release.

“We were stuck between some very good movies when we were in theaters,” says Kasi Lemmons, helmer of “Talk to Me.” “We’re hoping to reach a wider audience with our DVD release and that it will remind people of Don Cheadle’s performance.”

Richard Gere, who starred in April release “The Hoax,” believes DVD mailings will also help bring his film more attention.

“Anything that gets the film in front of people is good, because then they can evaluate the work on its own merit,” Gere says. “When you’re working on movies yourself, it’s sometimes hard to get to the theater, so DVD is important.”

“It’s the No. 1 important ingredient in awards campaigning,” adds veteran awards consultant Murray Weissman, who worked on the campaign for “Crash” along with more than 25 others, including “Chicago,” “Shakespeare in Love” and “The English Patient.” “If you want consideration, those discs have to go out.”

Those working with distributors find it significant as well. Some believe films covering challenging territory can benefit even more from a DVD mailing.

“I think it can only help you find viewers, especially if your film is perceived as having a difficult subject matter,” says a spokesperson for Paramount Vantage, which released “A Mighty Heart.” “Sometimes people feel more comfortable experiencing that kind of film in their own home.”

Films small or large that want to avoid the bulk of DVDs that come to Academy members and press should also plan on mailing early, according to Weissman. Those who wait run the risk of their films possibly not being viewed at all.

“Sure, people will watch ‘Sweeney Todd’ and ‘American Gangster’ when they come in the mail because big stars are in those movies,” says Weissman. “But if you’re a very good film, but maybe you don’t have those names, then I think it’s important to get to people early, because as time goes on it’s simply impossible for people to watch the 50 or 60 DVDs that come to them in just a few weeks.”

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