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Studios back to theaters after nominations

Distributors hope to strike box office gold
/ Source: Hollywood Reporter

With Academy Awards nominations in hand, it now becomes the distributors’ challenge to extract as much box office gold as they can from the honors.

With 11 nominations, New Line Cinema’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” not only tallied more nominations than any other picture this year -- it’s also  the highest grossing film in the best picture race. It has earned $337.8 million domestically and, as of last weekend, was playing in 2,558 theaters -- more venues than any of the other best picture contenders.

“We’re humbled, we’re excited, we’re thrilled -- we’re everything,” said David Tuckerman, president of domestic distribution at New Line.

“Usually the marketplace dictates the number of runs you get. We’ll probably add some or stay the same, and then we’ll play it out. The nominations make the playdates we have stronger. But the real bump at the box office comes to whichever film wins best picture,” he added.

Hoping for new momentum20th Century Fox’s seafaring adventure “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” which received 10 nominations, has grossed $85.3 million so far and was in just 235 theaters as of last Friday. According to Bruce Snyder, president of domestic distribution for Fox, “Master” will add 1,000 theaters this Friday.

Snyder added, “I think that 10 nominations is quite different from three or four. It says epic, it says spectacular, it’s one of those movies that comes along every once in a while. I expect it will have a very positive effect, especially for women who may have been reluctant to go earlier. I think there will be a surge at the boxoffice.”

Although Universal Pictures’ “Seabiscuit” has left theaters (after grossing $120.1 millionn) and moved on to home video, Nikki Rocco,  Universal Pictures distribution president, said that “AMC is working on an Academy nomination run that will be putting “Seabiscuit” back in more than 50 theaters across the country.”

Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Mystic River,” which has grossed $58.8 million to date, expanded its theatrical run last weekend by 1,194 theaters, taking the count to 1,327. Dan Fellman, Warners president of domestic distribution, explained, “In anticipation of the Oscar nominations and the Golden Globes, we expanded last Friday and we had a terrific weekend.” Fellman added the number will grow to around 1,370 theaters this Friday.

“Since ’Mystic River’ had been seen by fewer people that most of the other nominees, we have the greatest opportunity to expand our box office considering the quality of the nominations we received,” said Fellman.

Focus Features’ “Lost in Translation” has grossed $34.7 million to date and was in 357 theaters last weekend.

“I expect the film will experience new momentum at the boxoffice,” said Jack Foley, president of distribution at Focus. “Translation” is in a unique situation because the film comes out on home video on Tuesday, which may hinder its theatrical prospects. Nevertheless, the theater count this coming weekend will be expanding to more than 600.