Prestige titles going for awards-driven business

A number of specialty films will look to parlay Golden Globe nominations or slots on critics’ best-of lists into box office this weekend, creating the usual year-end rush of prestige titles vying for adult eyeballs.

New entries are the Weinstein Co.’s musical “Nine,” opening in four theaters in New York and L.A., and Apparition’s “The Young Victoria,” bowing in 44 theaters in top markets.

Third new face is Fox Searchlight’s “Crazy Heart,” toplining Jeff Bridges, which opened Wednesday in four theaters in New York and L.A., grossing a solid $12,657.

Upping its profile substantially is Lionsgate’s “Precious,” which had been holding steady at 664 theaters. Drama expands nationwide to 1,003 theaters. Film has cumed $34 million to date, making it one of the top limited releases of the year.

Also expanding is Paramount’s “Up in the Air,” from 72 runs to 100 in its third sesh. “Nine” and “Up in the Air” both expand nationwide Christmas Day.

Up in the Air,” from director Jason Reitman and starring George Clooney, received six Globe noms, the most of any film. That was followed by five for “Nine,” Rob Marshall’s bigscreen adaptation of the Broadway musical based on Fellini’s “8½.” “Up in the Air” did strong business in its first two frames.

Early reviews of “Nine” have been mixed, however. Prestige pics usually need strong reviews to lure moviegoers, but the starry “Nine” cast, which includes Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Fergie, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench and Kate Hudson, could help overcome this hurdle.

The Weinstein Co.’s “The Road” increases its screen count from 135 to 396.

All of this unfolds as 20th Century Fox’s 3D tentpole “Avatar,” from James Cameron, opens around the globe (film opened domestically at 12:01 a.m. today ).

The other new nationwide player is Sony’s “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” Comedy stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant. Tracking is on the softer side, but Sony’s hoping the movie will benefit as counterprogramming to “Avatar.”

Avatar” is the first all-audience tentpole since the “Lord of the Rings” titles to receive a Golden Globe nom for best picture in the drama category. It’s one of the best-reviewed films of the year among top critics.

Pics like “Avatar” aren’t review-driven, but as was the case with “Star Trek” and “Iron Man,” both from Par, positive notices can help lure adults who might otherwise not be interested.

Smaller pics like the well-reviewed “Crazy Heart” can reap outsize rewards from positive reviews and awards attention. Bridges is gaining attention for his role as a washed-up country singer, picking up a Globes nom for actor in the drama category.

Young Victoria,” a biopic of the monarch, is receiving generally strong reviews. Like Bridges, Emily Blunt is receiving widespread attention for her performance, including a Globe nom.

This weekend marks the beginning of the busy Christmas holiday sesh. The week between Christmas and New Year’s, in particular, can bring the best traffic of the year.

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