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Nathan FillionNathan Fillion - "Waitress" Movie - Oscar campaigns crop up in summer’s heat
Sunday 15 July 2007, by Webmaster
LOS ANGELES — Summer: It’s not just for blockbusters anymore.
In the wake of the awards-season success of movies such as Crash and Little Miss Sunshine, studios are not only releasing fall-like fare in the summer, they’re also hatching Academy Award campaigns.
With last week’s release of the war film Rescue Dawn, at least a half-dozen movies have come out this year that studio execs consider Oscar bait. They include the dramas The Namesake, Away From Her, Once and the comedy Waitress. Most have received rave reviews if not big box-office returns.
And some analysts say favorites already have emerged in the documentary and animated categories in Michael Moore’s Sicko and Disney’s Ratatouille, which have earned recommendations from more than 90% of the nation’s critics and enjoyed solid ticket sales.
"I think we’ve seen a sea change of when movies can come out," says Rick Sands, chief operating officer of MGM, which released Rescue. "After Crash, no one thought you had to wait until November and December to get the academy’s attention."
So studios already are vying for that attention. Last month, Fox Searchlight began offering passes for academy and industry guild members to see Waitress and Once free in theaters, a privilege studios usually withhold until fall.
And Searchlight is holding on to its Indian drama The Namesake an extraordinary nine months before releasing it on DVD, hoping to flood voters with home videos — a tactic that helped Crash win the best-picture Oscar and Sunshine earn four nominations.
"The voters seem to have longer memories, and that’s an encouraging trend," says Nancy Utley, Searchlight’s co-chief operating officer. "It doesn’t matter anymore when your film was released theatrically. The DVD gives them a reminder, and you get a second wave of publicity."
Tom O’Neil, the author of Movie Award and columnist for The Envelope awards website, says the early-release strategy is becoming more effective as voters become overwhelmed by the crush of films in fall.
"Oscar voters are essentially lazy," he says. "They spend their lives by a pool. So if you can get them a DVD that lets them stay at home and watch it on their home theater, all the better."
David Poland of MovieCityNews.com says the summer strategy will work only if the film has the goods.
"And they haven’t, so far," he says. "The studios may start making an Oscar push earlier, but that doesn’t mean it will work. None of these have taken off in theaters the way Crash did. You have to have more than strategy. You have to have the movie to go with it."