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Rediff.com  » Movies » Hollywood prepares for award-season harvest

Hollywood prepares for award-season harvest

Last updated on: January 24, 2007 10:46 IST

In the normal course, The Departed, the gritty, pulse-raising crime drama, would have followed its title. But the hit film, which grossed just about $250,000 two weeks ago in its 16th week in America, stayed on. And for a very good reason: The Golden Globes were around the corner. And when its director, the veteran Martin Scorsese, grabbed the Globe, distributor Warner added 10 theatres, taking the count to 125.

This Friday, the film -- expected to be a major player at the Oscars -- is adding 1,500 theatres in North America. The most successful film in Scorsese's three-and-half decade-long career, The Departed has grossed an impressive $250 million. Expect it to gross at least $25 million before the Oscars on February 25. And if it wins a handful of major Oscars, it may continue to show for a few more weeks. It will also gain considerably when it hits the DVD market.

The Last King Of Scotland was also on its deathbed a week ago. But with Forest Whitaker -- who gives a sterling performance as the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin --winning the Golden Globe, the film suddenly sprang back to life. With an eye firmly on the Oscar nominations, distributor Fox Searchlight is going to widen the well-reviewed film in the next few weeks.

The Last King Of Scotland -- made for a slim $6 million -- jumped to 495 locations from just four after its Golden Globe win and collected an estimated $1.8 million last weekend, raising the total to $5.5 million. The film has been around for 17 weeks but it is only now that it is coming into prominence, and Fox Searchlight has started taking out impressive ads in the media. The widely televised Golden Globe ceremony gave it an even a bigger kick abroad. In the United Kingdom, for instance, it grossed a heady $4 million in a week following the Globe win.

The Golden Globe awards and the Oscar nominations are certainly giving a terrific lift to films like The Queen and The Last King... that were on the verge of closing. If you have missed seeing the smaller gems such as Babel, which got the best Golden Globe (drama), you have another chance to see them on the big screen during the next four weeks.

The riveting docudrama The Queen -- revolving around the death of Princess Diana and the reaction of the monarchy and the political parties towards it -- has been showing in North America for 17 weeks. With an unforgettable performance by Helen Mirren in the title role, the film made for about $20 million had grossed $31 million before the Globes. With Golden Globes for best actress and best screenplay, it jumped from 344 theatres to 1,586 and its gross in America reached about $36 million.

But the film -- directed by Stephen Frears -- could end its run with more than $60 million. It could also benefit abroad, where it is unfolding in many key territories in the coming weeks, with a pocketful of Oscars. And then there is a big DVD market a few months later. Frears, who has been making films for over 25 years, at last has a genuine hit that would be playing in the coming weeks beyond the art-house ghettos.

Nominations and awards benefit films in many ways. A nomination for Meryl Streep for her spirited performance in The Devil Wears Prada could boost the film's DVD sale. The film, which has grossed a handsome $250 million worldwide, hit the DVD market two weeks ago.

The nominations and awards help most the movies that are either new or in the middle of their career.

The heartfelt musical about the vagaries of showbiz, Dreamgirls, is already a medium-range success, having grossed $78 million. The trio of Golden Globes including the best picture (musical) helped the film add 307 theatres last Friday taking its total count to 2,214 in North America. With multiple Oscar nominations, the film could reach $100 million, and if it wins a few key Oscars, it could end up with more than $125 million in North America alone, making the musical one of the more profitable films of 2006. The film, which opened in Australia and New Zealand to decent receptions, could also benefit considerably abroad.

Images: Why Dreamgirls will get Oscar nods

The awards season has also given a boost to Guillermo del Toro's political fantasy thriller Pan's Labyrinth, which is set in a 1944 Spain ruled by General Franco. It rose from 150 to 609 theatres last weekend. The Spanish language film, which revolves around two kinds of monsters -- political and the ones a child imagines -- is going to have several more expansions. It has already grossed a strong $10.2 million in limited release, $4 million of that coming in the last three days. Given its complex nature and a few blood curdling scenes, it is quite a surprise the film has become an art-house hit. Another expansion is waiting it the coming Friday.

Many people stayed away from United 93 because they anticipated the film as too unnerving. The film has been hailed as a gripping and non-sensational work of art. Made for just about $20 million, it grossed a decent $60 million world across the world. It has been doing quite well on DVD. The Best Director nomination for Paul Greengrass will help tremendously, and distributor Universal will surely launch a new campaign to boost its sales.

Babel, another art-house hit which tells three interconnected stories set on four continents, too is benefiting from the awards season. Though the film has Brad Pitt in a supporting role, it is not a typical Hollywood film. It deals intensely with juvenile violence, immigration issues, and a teenager's suicidal loneliness. Before it won the Golden Globe, it had grossed a so-so $20 million. It added $3.2 million after its win. Now that the film, which is in Arabic, Spanish, Japanese and English, has received a new push, it is expected to gross at least $30 million, as it adds more theatres in the coming weeks to its current 889.

Both Babel and Pan's Labyrinth had auspicious starts at the Toronto International Film Festival last September where they received standing ovations. And both films received a number of rave reviews.

Arthur J Pais in New York