Weinstein Co. plans expansion, while int'l rollouts still loom
Oscar’s top-prize winner also looks to be the biggest box office beneficiary of the kudos race.“The Artist,” which nabbed four other statuettes (actor for Jean Dujardin, director for Michel Hazanavicius, score for Ludovic Bource and costume for Mark Bridges) could end up with a 60% or more B.O. bump domestically after the Oscars thanks to a planned expansion into smaller markets across the country. The Weinstein Co. has taken a slow and steady approach to rolling out the silent, B&W film, starting with a limited theatrical bow on Nov. 25. Domestic cume is an estimated $31.9 million. Stateside theatrical business is just one prize in the post-Oscars money game, however. Many of this year’s winners continue to roll out overseas. “The Artist,” which bows April 7 in Japan, should cross $80 million worldwide through Sunday; “The Descendants,” which won the Oscar for adapted screenplay, has cumed more than $156 million globally. Beyond the multiplex, wins could help boost downstream revenues from outlets including foreign TV rights and streaming deals. TWC recently signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Netflix that includes “The Artist.” The distrib plans to nearly double the pic’s current theater count to 1,500 locations or more in the coming weeks — supported mainly by an aggressive rollout in smaller core markets outside of New York and L.A. What’s more, kudocast exposure could help lure younger moviegoers. “Our exit polling over the last 14 weeks shows that audiences of all ages are loving the film,” said Weinstein distribution head Erik Lomis. Aside from “The Artist,” “The Descendants” may also see a positive box office effect from its award. “The Descendants” is already helmer Alexander Payne’s highest-grossing film, and fourth-highest for Fox Searchlight, with a domestic cume of $78.5 million. Searchlight first released the film in the U.S. on Nov. 11 and widened the pic on Feb. 3 to its biggest location count to date at 2,038. Fox Searchlight has said that whether “The Descendants” expands depended on Sunday’s outcome. The film is currently at 889 locations. Box office boosts for “Hugo,” which nabbed five tech Oscars, and “The Help,” which won a single statuette for Octavia Spencer in the supporting actress contest, are expected to be marginal. “Hugo” arrives Tuesday on homevid, while “The Help” launched on DVD and Blu-ray more than two months ago with domestic sales close to $70 million. “The Help” is this year’s highest-grossing best picture nominee with $169 million domestically; “Hugo,” meanwhile, approaches $70 million and is still playing at just north of 500 Stateside locations. Among the pic nominees, 2011 lacked the one blockbuster that’s become an Oscar standard in recent years. (Think of pic nominees “Toy Story 3,” “Inception” or “Avatar.”) “The Artist” has performed strongly on the coasts, but its five Oscars could help draw attention in flyover states as well. Weinstein will add multiple locations in smaller U.S. cities where the film is overindexing like Louisville, Ky., and Topeka, Kan. “That’s what the Academy can do for us,” Lomis said. “A win can help the film broaden out in those smaller markets.” As with previous pic winners like “Slumdog Millionaire,” which cumed $141 million domestically, many moviegoers weren’t able to see the film in theaters until closer to the Oscars telecast. “Slumdog,” which won eight awards including picture, expanded to north of 2,000 domestic locations for the first time during the weekend of the ceremony in 2009. “Slumdog” wound up tallying $43 million (or 30% of its total domestic cume) post-Oscars.