Studios craft DVD Oscar strategy

'Fog' to roll in March 3O

While other distributors make plans to increase the number of screens for Oscar-nominated films, DreamWorks is holding steady with 550 runs for “House of Sand and Fog” and has become the first studio to announce DVD release plans for its Academy Award contender since the nominations Tuesday.

DreamWorks has set a release date of March 30 for the drama starring Ben Kingsley and supporting actress nominee Shoreh Aghdashloo. The DVD will feature five deleted scenes, audio commentary by Kingsley, Vadim Perelman and Andre Dubus III, as well as the audition tape of Aghdashloo and a behind-the-scenes program.

Miramax has said it will expand the number of screens for surprise multi-nominee “City of God” by hundreds of runs even though the movie is set for DVD release on Feb. 17.

Meanwhile, with no further theatrical installments with which to time the release of the DVD, New Line is said to be considering a DVD release of “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” as early as April, May or June, months before the August DVD release dates of the first two movies. Director Peter Jackson was quoted in USA Today on Tuesday saying that his movie will be released on DVD in May or June, followed by a four-hour and 10-minute extended edition in November, but New Line says no final release plans have been set and that no announcement will be made until after the Oscar ceremony.

The awards for well-timed DVD release and event strategies may go to HBO, Fox and Universal.

HBO released the documentary “Capturing the Friedmans” on Tuesday, the same day it was nominated for an Academy Award. HBO is also releasing Oscar nominee “American Splendor” next Tuesday and is believed to be planning a June DVD release of multi-Golden Globe winner “Angels in America.”

Fox released “Thirteen” on DVD Tuesday, the same day the film’s Holly Hunter was nominated for supporting actress.

Universal, which collected major Globes for “Lost in Translation” on Sunday and four major Oscar noms for the title Tuesday, had previously set the film to be released on DVD next Tuesday.

Other Oscar nominees already on DVD or previously scheduled include “Whale Rider,” released last October; “Finding Nemo,” last November; “Seabiscuit” and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” both released in December; “Pieces of April,” coming Feb. 24; “21 Grams,” March 16; “Something’s Gotta Give” and “Dirty Pretty Things,” set for March 23; and “Brother Bear” on March 30.

(Jennifer Netherby is a reporter for Daily Variety sister publication Video Business.)

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