Early-bird strategy could continue to pay off

Revving up the awards season, Sony Pictures Classics is touting its “Frozen” assets.

On Monday, many Academy voters received the first awards-screener of the season, “Frozen River.” The package touts Melissa Leo for lead actress consideration and Courtney Hunt for director and original screenplay.

Among studio execs and kudos strategists, there is always curiosity about the first screener — it’s yet one more confirmation that, like it or not, awards season is here. And while there is no honor per se in being first, the early screeners have a good track record for the past few years.

In 2005, SPC acknowledged the earlier Oscarcast by sending out a screener for “Junebug” on Sept. 28 — far earlier than usual. The usual flood of screeners traditionally begins around Thanksgiving but the company put its title far ahead of the pack, to avoid the year-end glut of films vying for voters’ attention.

The gambit paid off, when Amy Adams received a supporting nom for “Junebug.”

In 2006, Fox Searchlight was first by sending out “Little Miss Sunshine,” which eventually won two Oscars. Last year, Searchlight was an even earlier bird, sending out a package of “Namesake,” “Once” and “Waitress” Sept. 3, the day after Labor Day. Again, the move resulted in kudos attention, with the song from “Once” winning the Academy Award.

Overture, a newcomer to the awards season, was the first company to tout its screening schedule, which appeared in the Sept. 18 Daily Variety. Even earlier, on Aug. 28, Focus Features took out full-page ads in consumer newspapers’ entertainment sections, proudly urging the “Hamlet 2″ song “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” for your awards consideration.

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