‘Mind’ matters at U

Top trophies should burnish studio image

The top trophies for “A Beautiful Mind” come at a particularly propitious time for the embattled media conglom Vivendi Universal and its Gallic chairman Jean Marie Messier.

Transatlantic concerns about just how its different pieces will fit together can be put aside for the moment in the euphoria of a resounding Oscar victory.

The statuettes will also add additional sheen to the image of the Universal regime headed by U Studios prexy Ron Meyer and U Pictures chair Stacey Snider.

“Beautiful” was unusual for Universal in that it was the first-ever platform release for Imagine Entertainment.

The pic opened in limited release in December 2001 and, buoyed by a massive marketing campaign, now stands at $209 million worldwide.

Meyer and Snider have made a point of renewing the studio’s production deals with key production outfits, and Imagine, whose deal with U runs through 2005, is arguably the most important of these.

Vivendi U brass recently renewed Meyer and Snider’s contracts for another five years.

The heavily promoted and hotly contested “A Beautiful Mind” took home four wins out of eight noms, including the prime categories of best picture, director, adapted screenplay and supporting actress.

However, star Russell Crowe lost out on his bid as “Training Day” star Denzel Washington snagged the honor for best actor.

The U/DreamWorks teaming on “A Beautiful Mind” mirrors last year’s Oscar-winning “Gladiator,” which was released by DreamWorks domestically and handled abroad by Universal.

The former pic, spanning the years 1947-94, tackles weighty themes of game theory, schizophrenia and the price of genius — all through the prism of a lifelong romance.

The film faced widespread carping about its lack of accuracy (Oscar-winning scripter Akiva Goldsman admitted that little depicted onscreen ever happened to the real-life Nash) and criticism of Nash himself.

Meanwhile, New Line’s “Lord of the Rings” also nabbed four Oscars, but they were in the technical categories of best cinematography, best makeup, best visual effects and best score.

Furthermore, “Rings” lost heavily to “Mind” on a percentage basis: “Rings” had 13 noms — the most for any single film — while “Mind” had eight.

Even with its 13 noms, “Rings” was considered an Oscar underdog. While fans wildly embraced the film, many Oscar seers forecast that the Acad would go for “A Beautiful Mind.”

Timothy M. Gray contributed to this report.

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