'Artist,' 'Descendants' most likely to benefit from bids

The Oscar spotlight could boost several contenders at the box office. It better: The class of 2011 consists of some comparative underachievers.

So far, the nine best-pic hopefuls have earned $1 billion at the box office, while in each of the previous two years, a single film eventually passed the $1 billion mark: “Toy Story 3″ crossed that threshold in 2010, while 2009’s “Avatar” eventually grossed $2.78 billion at the global box office.

Where on the list of best picture Oscar nomineeswas the box office behemoth that’s become an Oscar staple in recent years?

The list of nominees are a mix of pix currently at the box office, including “The Artist” and “The Descendants” — the likeliest B.O. beneficiaries, along with “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” — and films already released on homevid, such as “The Help,” “Midnight in Paris” and “Moneyball.”

Disney-DreamWorks’ “The Help” is the biggest grosser of the bunch, with $205 million worldwide. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but still a far cry from the global hauls of 2011’s highest-grossing pair, “Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows: Part 2″ and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” both of which earned three bids each.

“The Help” and Oscar’s second-highest grossing pic nominee this year, Sony Pictures Classics’ “Midnight in Paris,” won’t see much of a theatrical boost, though VOD and DVD rentals and sales could spike. Other pic nominees vying for attention from home viewers include Sony’s “Moneyball” and Fox Searchlight’s “The Tree of Life.”

For those pics still in play theatrically, an Oscar nom can prompt distribs to alter their release strategies.

Last weekend, the Weinstein Co. expanded “The Artist” to more than 600 locations, lifting the pic’s Stateside total just north of $12 million. Warners also went wide with “Extremely Loud” for a domestic cume of $10.7 million through Sunday. “The Descendants” — one of Searchlight’s two nominees for best picture — has tallied $51.3 million domestically.

According to online ticketing site Fandango, “The Artist” saw a 190% uptick in Tuesday’s ticket sales vs. the previous day, while “The Descendants” saw a 65% increase. Both are expected to expand Friday to approximately 900 locations each.

While Paramount’s “Hugo” scored the most nominations at 11, including best picture and director, the film, released Nov. 23, has cumed a lukewarm $86.5 million worldwide. “Hugo” expands this weekend to 944 domestic locations, up from 650.

Disney-DreamWorks’ “War Horse,” with six noms, has seen $75 million Stateside and still is playing at more than 2,500 locations.

For films outside the best picture race, Oscar’s impact on a film’s B.O. can vary widely.

•Focus Features’ “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” has seen solid totals on the specialty front. Pic’s three Oscar bids, including best actor for Gary Oldman and adapted screenplay, should bolster a Stateside run approaching $20 million.

•”The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” which Sony released over Christmas, should cross $100 million domestically this weekend. Pic grabbed five noms including actress for Rooney Mara.

•Roadside Attractions’ “Albert Nobbs” opens limited on Friday.

•Par’s animated-feature contender “Rango” relaunches for a one-week engagement at the ArcLight Hollywood. “Rango” first opened domestically on March 4 and has cumed more than $240 million worldwide. Pic has reached approximately $23 million in homevid sales since launching July 15.

•Also in the toon field, GKids’ “Chico and Rita” bows Feb. 10 in New York and will expand into March. Meanwhile, GKids’ second feature toon nominee, “A Cat in Paris,” is slated for a mid-2012 release.

Among the foreign-language nominees, Sony Pictures Classics’ “A Separation,” which won the equivalent trophy at the Golden Globes, is the category’s only nominee to have been released in the U.S. so far. In four weeks, the film has tallied around $541,000.

Sony Classics’ other foreign-lingo contenders, “In Darkness” and “Footnote,” are set to bow Feb. 10 and March 9, respectively. “Bullhead,” distribbed by Drafthouse Films, launches April 27; Music Box’s “Monsieur Lazhar” also will bow in the spring.

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