Studio hopes kudos mean auds for 'Crazy Heart,' 'Avatar'

Basking in the glow of “Avatar’s” domination, the Fox empire is hoping Jeff Bridges’ surprise Golden Globes win for lead actor in the drama category will shine the spotlight on “Crazy Heart” at the box office.

Prestige titles like Fox Searchlight’s “Crazy Heart” have come to depend upon awards attention to boost their B.O. profile, since they don’t have access to major marketing coin.

“Avatar’s” Globe wins for best drama and director should also help keep the pic firmly in the public eye, since the record-breaking title has been open for only five weeks. Through Monday, “Avatar’s” global gross was $1.62 billion, just $200 million shy of the $1.8 billion cumed by Jim Cameron’s “Titanic,” the top grosser of all time.

Conversely, it’s been a difficult season for the specialty market, and, so far, Paramount’s “Up in the Air” is the only title to have successfully broken out. Beginning in a limited run before expanding nationwide on Christmas Day, “Up in the Air’s” cume through Monday was $64 million.

“Crazy Heart” has kept a low profile since opening Dec. 16, playing in fewer than 50 theaters. It had a rough start, but has been seeing better numbers over the past two weekends.

Over the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, “Crazy Heart” grossed an estimated $792,473 from 47 theaters for a cume of $2.2 million. Three-day weekend was up 40% over the previous sesh.

Searchlight will now begin adding markets, as well as more-aggressively marketing the film with a nod to the Globes trophies. This weekend, 10 cities will be added to the film’s run, followed by as many as 25 the next weekend.

“This helps to put the film in the spotlight,” a Searchlight exec said.

“Crazy Heart” also won for original song, with music and lyrics by T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham.

Last year, Searchlight swept awards season with “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Sony Pictures Classics’ “The White Ribbon,” which won the Globe for foreign-language film, also could see interest as a result of its victory. Through Monday, the film’s cume was $298,063 in its third week, playing in 12 theaters. The drama won the Palme d’Or in Cannes, and is Germany’s foreign-language film Oscar submission.

Hollywood Foreign Press voters leaned toward more commercial titles than in years past. While “The Hangover” (already a hit on DVD) and “The Blind Side,” which is well into its box office run, won’t see as much benefit at the box office from the Globes, Fox execs think “Avatar’s” wins could help lure even more adults.

“Winning director and picture further pique the curiosity of moviegoers to see this epic film that is destined to become the highest-grossing movie in history. There is a lot of fuel left in ‘Avatar’s’ tank,” said Fox senior VP of domestic distribution Chris Aronson.

“Avatar” ended the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend with an estimated domestic cume of $505.1 million, and an international total of $1.12 billion. For the four-day holiday weekend, it grossed an estimated $54.6 million domestically.

Overseas, “Avatar” grossed $128.9 million, including a record-breaking opening of $15.2 million in Italy. “Avatar” is now the highest grossing film ever in China, at $75.6 million.

“Avatar” is the first Hollywood tentpole to win either a drama or director Globe since Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” six years ago.

“Return of the King” saw a narrower drop than usual after its Globes win in January 2004. In 1998, “Titanic” won for best drama, while Cameron won director, but comparisons are virtually impossible to make, since “Titanic” built up its cume much more slowly, and over many months.

Warners’ “Sherlock Holmes” also could see a B.O. bounce from Robert Downey Jr.’s win for lead actor in the comedy/musical category.

“Sherlock,” directed by Guy Ritchie, grossed $9.9 million for the holiday weekend for a domestic cume of $180.1 million in its fourth weekend. Overseas, it grossed a pleasing $26.3 million to come in No. 2 behind “Avatar” at the international B.O. Pic’s foreign cume is $168.6 million for a worldwide haul of $348.7 million.

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