'Clayton,' 'Wild' available before Oscars
As the kudos season kicks into high gear, studios are staking out prime DVD berths for their hopefuls.Contenders such as “Michael Clayton,” “Into the Wild,” “In the Valley of Elah” and “Gone Baby Gone” will bow during the weeks leading up to Feb. 24′s Academy Awards. Also on the way before the kudocast: “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” “Lust, Caution” and “Across the Universe.” Over the past few years, the pre-Oscar period has become a prime launching pad for high-profile discs. Studios, which once waited until after the Academy Awards to release their winners, have discovered they can gain equally impressive, if not greater, DVD coin by drafting off awareness of the pics during the final kudos push. And with homevideo windows growing ever shorter — virtually every summer B.O. hit bowed on disc before the end of the year — there is less incentive for studios to hold on to their releases for a post-Oscar bump and greater need to keep the first-quarter pipeline full of high-profile product. Last year, Warners had great success debuting “The Departed” on disc a couple weeks before it won the best picture and director statuettes; post-Oscar sales exceeded the studio’s expectations. And the year before, Fox’s pre-Oscar positioning for “Walk the Line” paid off in boffo disc sales; Johnny Cash biopic sold 5 million units in its first week on shelves, which included Oscar night, and sold another million discs the week after Reese Witherspoon won her statuette. This year, three hopefuls will bow on disc the week leading up the ceremony: “Michael Clayton” and “In the Valley of Elah,” both from Warners, and “Lust, Caution.” “Into the Wild” and “Gone Baby Gone” bow on Feb. 12, with “Across the Universe” and “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” making their bid for homevid coin on Feb. 5. Several other hopefuls have already debuted on disc, including “Eastern Promises” late last month, “Hairspray” before Thanksgiving and “Away From Her” in September. So far, at least, studios are shying away from releasing smaller pics this month in hopes of securing a nomination. A couple years ago, when the crackdown on awards screeners was well under way, studios considered homevid bows during the kudos season a work-around solution to that problem. Such bows could drive awareness about various movies. Campaigners have also sent discs as gentle reminders to voters; Lionsgate famously flooded the kudos zone with “Crash” DVDs during its awards season. Of this year’s hopefuls, only Lionsgate’s “3:10 to Yuma” is skedded for a January debut; it arrives next week. Of course, prime DVD berths are no guarantee of gold on Oscar night — or beyond. Last season, Paramount issued “Babel” on disc the week before the ceremony. Although it was up for seven statuettes, it came up empty for the biggest honors, winning only the original score trophy.