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Theaters clamor for Oscar contenders 'Budapest,' 'Birdman'

/ Source: Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - What impact does an Oscar nomination have on a film's prospects at the box office? Look no further than "The Grand Budapest Hotel," a movie released 10 months ago that generated a flurry of phone calls from theater owners to studio Fox Searchlight on Thursday morning.

Wes Anderson's quirky comedy scored nine Academy Award nods on Thursday, including best picture, raising new interest in a film that for months has been available on DVD and digital formats.

The arthouse studio was arranging for overnight shipping to 15 to 30 theaters that requested the film, said Frank Rodriguez, senior vice president and general sales manager for Fox Searchlight, a unit of 21st Century Fox.

"I'm at a loss for words for how happy we are for 'Budapest,'" Rodriguez said. "I don't think 'Budapest' would have gotten any new (theater) bookings" without the Oscar recognition."

The film has pulled in $59 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters so far, according to tracking firm Rentrak.

Theater owners were also clamoring to schedule surreal satire "Birdman," another offbeat Fox Searchlight release that scored nine Oscar nominations. The film will double its reach this weekend to about 450 theaters, Rodriguez said, and may play in more than 1,000 the following weekend.

Fox Searchlight led all Hollywood studios with 20 total Oscar nominations for "Birdman," "Grand Budapest Hotel" and "Wild."

Small studio IFC Films had a breakthrough with its first best picture nod for "Boyhood," director Richard Linklater's coming-of-age tale filmed over 12 years with the same actors.

The studio, a unit of AMC Networks Inc, was founded in 1999 principally to distribute independent movies and documentaries financed by others, such as 2002's "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."

"Boyhood" scored six Oscar nominations, and studio president Jonathan Sehring called 2014 "a landmark year for IFC Films."

The film, already available on DVD and on-demand platforms, will play at more than 100 theaters on Friday and expand in coming weeks, Sehring said.

"We feel that there is still a large number of people who haven't yet seen 'Boyhood' and would like to catch it on the big screen," he said.

Oscar voters also delivered good news to Sony Pictures as it recovers from a damaging cyber attack. Its arthouse division, Sony Pictures Classics, collected 18 nominations, the most in its history, for movies including best picture nominees "Foxcatcher" and "Whiplash."

The Weinstein Company, lauded for running successful Oscar campaigns, is again in the running with eight nominations for World War Two biopic "The Imitation Game."

None of the best picture contenders has yet reached blockbuster status in the United States and Canada.

"American Sniper," from Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros, appears poised to enjoy an Oscar boost as it expands nationwide and could eventually haul in $100 million domestically, said Paul Dergarabedian, Rentrak senior media analyst.

"For those films still in theaters, this opens up a whole new world to them," he said.

(Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Gunna Dickson)