The rising profile of the BAFTAs means that the awards have an increasingly visible impact on box office, according to U.K. distributors and exhibitors.
“You definitely get a BAFTA knock-on effect, which has been picking up pace over the years, because BAFTA has done a great job of promoting itself,” says Tim Richards, chief exec of the Vue multiplex chain. “If a film wins the key awards or multiple awards, people do take notice, though some of the lesser awards in isolation won’t make any difference.”
Word is even starting to spread across Europe, says Paramount PR chief Katherine Willing.
“Our European territories would be very interested to know about the BAFTA nominations, though not so much in Asia, Australia or Latin America,” she says. “Critics and exhibitors throughout Europe would certainly recognize something that has 10 BAFTA nominations, but it has to be a big number of nominations to matter outside the U.K.”
Within the U.K., the greatest commercial benefit of the BAFTAs is earned by those British films that become a patriotic feel-good story in the local media, particularly if they feature a hot young actor or actress who hogs the front-page photos. Carey Mulligan’s BAFTA victory last time around was the moment she crossed the threshold into stardom.
“Last year’s BAFTA ceremony played like a two-hour commercial for ‘An Education,’ and we saw a big spike in DVD pre-orders,” says Alex Hamilton of distrib E1.
Similarly for foreign films, the BAFTAs offer a golden chance at primetime TV exposure if they can secure an acting nomination. Metrodome will be pushing Tilda Swinton hard for “I Am Love.”
” ‘I Am Love’ was a wonderful success for us theatrically, and we’d see a huge uplift on the DVD number if it gets multiple BAFTA nominations,” says Metrodome’s Jezz Vernon. “We had a similar experience a couple of years ago with Julie Christie in ‘Away From Her.’ ”
Many key BAFTA contenders get their U.K. theatrical release in January and February, which means they are positioned for maximum boost from the publicity around the nominations and awards.
Andrew Turner, head of U.K. sales at 20th Century Fox, says BAFTA buzz from the London Film Festival from October onward gives distribs the confidence to commit more P&A to a theatrical campaign and encourages exhibitors to book a movie.
“In terms of spend, sustain and planning, and selling it to exhibitors, our belief grows, and exhibitors respond to that,” he says.
Conversely, if an awards hopeful is only getting lukewarm three-star reviews, it can rapidly find its plans downsized and release date shifted.
Campaigning to the BAFTA membership is also good corporate PR. When Stewart Till took over Icon last year, he saw the BAFTAs as an opportunity to burnish the company’s image to the U.K. film community. The elegant DVD boxed set of “Precious,” “A Single Man,” “The Road” and “Nowhere Boy” was intended to send out a message that Icon was now “a new company with new ownership and some good films,” he says. “It was absolutely money well spent.”
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