And now a bounce?

Studios shift gears to cash in on nominations

The race is on to convert Academy kudos into box office coin.

Twentieth Century Fox’s “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” and Warner Bros.’ “Mystic River” are among Oscar best pic nominees already set to re-expand this weekend. And New Line’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” should be helped greatly by its pic nom and 10 other kudos in a quest to become the first pic since 1997’s “Titanic” to gross more than $1 billion worldwide.

Universal’s “Seabiscuit” has been available in homevideo since December, so any theatrical re-release would register only nominal biz. Focus Features’ “Lost in Translation” is similarly limited in exploiting its best-pic nom, with the title set to hit homevid-store shelves Tuesday.

Meanwhile, though Oscar’s famous B.O. bounce applies primarily to best-pic nominees and winners, kudos in acting and other categories can help support marketing campaigns for other pics as well.

Sony will tout Diane Keaton’s Academy-nommed perf in “Something’s Gotta Give,” and Newmarket will market its “Monster” and “Whale Rider” releases more heavily on the basis of their thesp noms for, respectively, Charlize Theron and Keisha Castle-Hughes.

“We’re still in over 1,600 theaters,” Sony marketing and distribution boss Jeff Blake noted of “Give.” “We’ll certainly support the nomination, and we’re in the win-win position of getting the benefit of the added publicity.”

On the other hand, Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” — which drew five noms — has been in homevid since December. Of course, there could be a marketing benefit from Johnny Depp’s actor nom in pushing homevideo units.

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More “Master”

Fox is relaunching nom magnet “Master and Commander” in more than 1,000 theaters — up from just 235 engagements last weekend.

“I think we may be able to get some females that were hesitant early on,” said Bruce Snyder, Fox’s domestic distribution prexy. “Some people might have thought previously, ‘That’s not a picture for me.’ But now it’s for everybody — 10 nominations makes for a kind of rarefied air.”

Warners distribution topper Dan Fellman re-expanded “Mystic River” to 1,327 locations last weekend and hopes to up that count to 1,370 by Friday. Studio figures pic’s re-energized theatrical campaign could add more than $15 million to pic’s current $59 million cume.

“We’ll certainly support the movie, and we’re well positioned right now,” Fellman said, noting a $5 million haul over the past week, its 16th in the marketplace.

“We’re looking forward to a very solid weekend, (though) we’re all going to have to contend with the Super Bowl,” Fellman added.

“Return of the King” will maintain 2,600-2,700 theaters, said David Tuckerman, New Line’s domestic distribution prexy.

Trilogy-capping phenom — which largely completed its international rollout with a Japanese bow last weekend — has rung up a boffo $876 million in worldwide B.O. so far.

“God” eyes expansion

Elsewhere in the domestic marketplace, Miramax is upping its foreign-language nominee “City of God” to at least 200 runs over the next two weekends, with potential further expansions thereafter.

But distribs of some other Oscar nominees have decided against re-expanding their pics despite drawing Academy noms. Those include DreamWorks’ “House of Sand and Fog,” which is sticking with 550 runs despite drawing three nominations, including actor for Ben Kingsley.

“We think we’re in the right number of theaters now,” DreamWorks distribution topper Jim Tharp said.

Generally speaking, Academy Award winners enjoy the biggest B.O. bounce from Oscar’s trampoline when they where released at the end of the calendar year.

Among this year’s best-pic nominees, that would seem to favor “Return of the King,” which unspooled Dec. 17. It’s hard to image the epic fantasy adding another 25% to its $338 million domestic tally, but that’s the average B.O. haul for best-pic winners over recent years.

Last year’s best-pic winner “Chicago” was a holidays 2002 release, and its platformed campaign meant the musical didn’t his wide distribution until January. “Chicago” grossed $63.8 million by the time Oscar noms were announced on Feb. 9; pic rung up $170.7 million domestically overall.

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