Oscar Nominees Likely to Be Released During Holiday Season

Posted on December 31, 1997

There is a very good chance that motion pictures released during the holiday season will garner a majority of the 1997 Academy Award nominations, according to Entertainment Data Inc.

``The advantage that a December release has over pictures that open earlier in the year is that it's fresh in the mind of the voting Academy members,'' EDI's Tom Borys explained.

To qualify for this year's Academy Awards, a film must open in 1997 and play for one week in New York or Los Angeles. Three contenders, ``The Boxer,'' ``Oscar and Lucinda'' and ``Wag the Dog,'' go down to the wire this year, opening on Dec. 31. In addition, December through January is prime time at the box office, with the two-month period generating more than $1 billion in revenue for the past two years.

Distributors are keenly aware of the window of opportunity, and launch films perceived as Academy Award contenders to take advantage of both the Academy Award nomination process and the best-of-year lists issued by various critics' organizations.

Having an actor, screenwriter or picture named best of the year by a group of film critics becomes part of a film's marketing campaign, which is also part of its nomination campaign.

An example of a release successfully employing this strategy was last year's ``Shine.'' Opening on seven screens Nov. 22 and expanding to 200 engagements on Christmas Day, then widening to 800 runs during the week that nominations were announced in February, the film earned an impressive seven nominations. ``Shine'' star Geoffrey Rush was named Best Actor in several major critics' polls and walked away with an Oscar as well.

DreamWorks will attempt to mirror the commercial and Academy Award success of ``Schindler's List'' by having Steven Spielberg's ``Amistad'' roll out over a month's time, from its Dec. 10 debut through a final expansion of screens on Jan. 16.

Important pictures from major directors like Quentin Tarantino (``Jackie Brown''), Martin Scorsese (``Kundun'') and Spielberg (``Amistad'') are all positioned to take advantage of a holiday launch into the Oscar nomination period.

Several small firms showcasing nomination-prone actors will bow close to Christmas, then expand in January: ``The Boxer'' (Daniel Day-Lewis and Emily Watson), ``The Winter Guest'' (Emma Thompson) and ``The Apostle'' (Robert Duvall).

Films hoping to attract Oscar's attention with dramatic sparks flying from notable pairings include Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman in ``Wag the Dog,'' Day-Lewis and Watson in ``The Boxer,'' and Julie Christie and Nick Nolte in ``Afterglow.''