Globes add spin to open award race

Golden glow boosts box office

With no clear front-runner having emerged thus far in the Oscar race, the industry is sifting through Golden Globe nominations like tea leaves to predict who’s on top and who’s hit the skids.

This year’s Globes noms have breathed new life into some pics that seemed sidelined, perhaps none more than Paramount Vantage’s “Babel.”

B.O. for the drama starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett jumped 7% last weekend after the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. showered the pic with noms.

Uptick proves that awards noms can result in increased interest. And in a year with Oscar’s best pic nominees largely open for speculation, “Babel” may get a new head of steam.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s globetrotting treatise on topics ranging from immigration to the war on terror and sexual politics is not the only issue-laden film to have received a bump from the HFPA’s endorsements.

Warner Bros.’ “Blood Diamond” mined decent weekday biz after the Globes noms were announced and hasn’t dropped as sharply as it might have without the mentions.

Other studios are using the Globes, as well as buzz from year-end best-of lists and critics’ picks, to more aggressively expand films or relaunch them altogether.

Fox Searchlight political drama “The Last King of Scotland” — which has received solid notices, but so-so B.O. to date — will relaunch in its widest rollout to date on the back of awards potential for lead actor Forest Whitaker.

Pic bowed on just four screens back in September to hefty per-engagement averages, but has cumed just $3.5 million after 12 weeks in release.

New Line’s angsty suburban drama “Little Children” was languishing in the arthouse ghetto while it waited for some sign from awards bodies that it might last through the Oscar race.

Studio will finally expand the pic into new markets at the end of the month. (Pic has never played on more than 37 screens, cuming just over $2 million in 11 weeks.)

Nominations also can propel specialty pics into smaller markets as they expand, with the potential of crossing over.

Miramax Films’ “The Queen,” starring Helen Mirren, heads for a wide rollout Jan. 19.

But perhaps the pics with the most to gain this year are those that haven’t even hit theaters: In years when no clear Oscar front-runners emerge, voters and critics tend to look at pics that hardly anyone has seen as the year’s big hope.

Along those lines, Paramount and DreamWorks’ “Dreamgirls” and Warners’ “Letters From Iwo Jima,” both Globes faves, could be catapulted into the catbird’s seat.