Bumps, reissues come with spotlight

If there’s something the five films nominated for best picture share in common it’s that they have all been relatively strong box office performers in an otherwise lackluster season for specialty titles.

Studios and specialty distribs use Academy nominations to boost the profile of films still in the middle of their box office run, as well as to return a movie to marquees in markets across the country, as Warner Bros. will do with “Clayton.” Awards attention can result in significant grosses for films.

Among the best pic noms, leading the pack in domestic box office performance is Fox Searchlight’s quirky dramedy “Juno,” which grossed $87 million through Monday, making it one of the most successful specialty titles in history, and that’s before the Oscar attention.

Going down the list of best pic noms, Focus Features’ period drama “Atonement” has grossed $32.6 million to date; Warner Bros.’ moody legal thriller “Michael Clayton,” $39.5 million; Miramax’s “No Country for Old Men,” $48.7 million, making it the Coen brothers most successful film; and Paramount Vantage’s Daniel Day-Lewis starrer “There Will Be Blood,” which has grossed $8.9 million.

“Atonement” and “There Will Be Blood” are still early in their limited runs, meaning they are well positioned to parlay Academy nominations’ potentially substantial B.O. grosses.

“Atonement” expanded to 1,291 theaters this past weekend in advance of the Oscar nominations and following its Golden Globe win for best drama. Focus is anticipating upping the theater count by 100 to 200 locations this coming weekend, but cautions that the market is already crowded.

“Blood,” which opened over Christmas, will expand this weekend from 398 theaters to as many as 850 theaters.

“Juno,” which began as a limited release, has become a bonafide hit, landing on the upper reaches of the box office chart the past several weeks. Pic, playing in 2,534 locations, grossed $12 million over the four-day MLK frame for a cume of $87 million.

Searchlight won’t likely grow “Juno’s” theater count by much more, considering it is already playing in so many theaters.

“No Country,” which opened in early November, was at its widest point in December, playing in 1,348 theaters. Film has continued to be a strong performer, playing in 818 theaters this past weekend, up from 657 locations the weekend before. This Friday, Miramax will up the theater count to roughly 1,500 to play off the Oscar nom.

“Clayton,” which opened in early October, has continued playing in a small number of theaters in anticipation of an awards run. This Friday, Warner takes the George Clooney starrer into 1,000 locations, from roughly 30.

Traditionally, it is only films receiving best picture noms that see renewed activity at the box office.

Otherwise, Oscar nominations will feature prominently in media campaigns for films still paying at theaters, movies being released on homevid, or that have already been released on DVD.

Warner will release “Clayton” on DVD on Feb. 19, the same date as “In the Valley of Elah,” another one of its nominated pics. It will bow “The Assassination of Jesse James” on Feb. 5.

As always, there is a divide between box office and Oscars.

The year’s top 10 worldwide grossers were, in order, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” “Spider-Man 3,” “Shrek the Third,” “Transformers,” “Ratatouille,” “The Simpsons Movie,” “300,” “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “Live Free or Die Hard.”

Aside from the Pixar-Disney toon, “Bourne” and “Transformers” got three noms each and “Pirates” got two, all in tech categories. The other seven films scored zero.

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