By Anthony D'Alessandro | Thompson on Hollywood January 18, 2011 at 9:19AM
While the Golden Globes don't have an impact on Academy Award nominations--ballots were due last Friday--they can give winners a serious box office boost, reports Anthony D'Alessandro. See the chart of this year's Golden Globes box office bumps below.
In contrast to last year, which saw a number of contenders on DVD by Golden Globes night, distributors took the old-fashioned route this year and unspooled their kudo crop during the late fall/early winter frame known in the trade as Oscar Alley.
They also returned to the tried-and-true platform release. That's due to the Academy’s expansion of the best picture category, which makes it easier for off-season fare to get recognized. Distributors don’t have to stress out about opening a high-brow title in the fall; they can comfortably choose the best release date which will maximize B.O. and still gain exposure on DVD at awards time.
Striking while the Globes were hot, Weinstein Co. and Fox Searchlight opted to blast their respective contenders The King’s Speech and Black Swan to their widest theater counts last weekend. Between the time of the Globe nom announcements on Dec. 14 and January 17, the domestic B.O. for King’s Speech surged by a multiple of 27 from $1.7 million to $46.7 million, while Black Swan flew up more than 1,000% from $6.5 million to $75.2 million (see chart).
Peaking during a platform release, especially at the award season crossroads, is not only a smart distribution plan, but practical. The Globes are a turning point when distributors reassess the money they’ve thrown at their cinematic candidates and whether they want to commit more. Had King’s Speech and Black Swan failed to win key awards Sunday, at least they profited off their nominations. Their Globe wins only give them more of a B.O. lifeline.
Last year, Paramount wisely maxed their theater counts on Up in the Air ($83.8 million) around the Globes ceremony, which turned out to be a smart business move in hindsight since the Jason Reitman film failed to win in the best picture, director and supporting actress categories. Following the Globes, exhibitors gradually kicked the film out of theaters.
Sony Pictures Classics aimed to capitalize on Paul Giamatti’s best supporting actor Globe nod for Barney’s Version by unspooling the film during the kudos ceremony weekend – a similar release tactic to what they employed last year with The Last Station, when Helen Mirren was up for best actress. Thanks to Giamatti’s win, Barney’s Version is off to a better start than Last Station, which earned a loss for Mirren at the Globes, but an Oscar nod.
Those films not posting huge B.O. jumps from their Globe nods included comedy/musicals Burlesque (+16%) and Love and Other Drugs (+12%). However these films were bruised from the start, fizzling in their Thanksgiving outing and were dismissed in the top categories by award pundits.
127 Hours ($11.1 million) only clocked a 31% spike from its three noms for best score, screenplay and best dramatic actor James Franco. However, Searchlight eased on the expansion of the Danny Boyle film following their Globe noms as they ramped up Black Swan. Much like its film’s protagonist, 127 Hours isn’t dead yet as Searchlight looks to increase the drama-thriller’s theater count to 500-600 on SAG Awards (January 30) weekend.
Meanwhile, the halo effect from The Social Network’s Globe wins will largely be felt on DVD (it was released last Tuesday). Since its Globe noms, the B.O. for the David Fincher feature inched up 4% by Martin Luther King. Jr. Monday.
But these B.O. boosts come at a price. Industry sources suggest that the average marketing spend for a 200-location award-contender theatrical release is $7-10 million, separate from an Oscar campaign which can cost up to $10 million. If a distributor wants to expand past 1,000-plus theaters, the marketing bill rises to $17-25 million.
If Sony decides to take Social Network back into domestic hubs, it’s for prestige's sake: it would most likely be a limited city run. Many studio distrib execs agree that re-releasing played-out contenders is an archaic practice, particularly with rising ad costs. DVD is a cheaper means of distribution and offers the opportunity to include behind-the-scenes extras that Academy screeners forbid.
Make no mistake, the home entertainment market isn’t a graveyard for nominees. A DVD release has the potential to post a similar percent jump as an award season platform release. Per The Numbers estimates, Inglourious Basterds, which had a DVD release timed to the Globes, saw its home entertainment sales shoot up 72% by awards night, moving from $29 million to $50 million. Sony used a similar strategy, putting Julie & Julia on store shelves a few days before Globes were announced and saw its sales move from $16.9 million to $34.4 million -- a 100%-plus spike.
In addition to Social Network, Inception was the second best picture drama nominee on DVD this year and its grosses jumped from $25.6 million during its first week on store shelves to $60.5 million by Jan. 2. Among those titles with acting nods which took advantage of the Christmas/Globes frame, The Town ($20 million) fared the best while Easy A ($10 million) and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps ($9 million) trailed. (The Numbers didn’t track sales for comedy winner The Kids Are All Right nor best actress contender Winter’s Bone. By early fall, Alice in Wonderland had played out in the home market).
Even though studio accountants are in love with the efficient business practice of putting contenders on DVD, distrib executives still savor a cross-over platform. The $141.3 million domestic success of the Indian/U.K. film Slumdog Millionaire reminds distributors that awards notoriety can still turn a niche title into leggy mainstream fare well after Oscars have been handed out. “If a distributer does it right, they can play an awards contender from November all the way through Christmas, the Golden Globes and the Oscars," says Weinstein Co. president David Glasser, "and find that they’re one of a few adult titles in the market by the spring.”