When pre-release polling hit studio E-mail in boxes this past Monday, Sean Bailey no doubt took a huge sigh of relief. Along with Walden Media and 20th Century Fox's "The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader," Bailey's pet project "Tron Legacy" is tracking as though it will hit theaters like a monster. Both films should be two of the biggest openings since the summer season. Considering how much the studio has invested in production and marketing the film for over three years, that's very good news.
Thanksgiving isn't just a time for friends, family and quieter Southern California highways. For Academy and SAG nominating committee members, it's the first extended period to really start digging through the always daunting screener pile.
Any consultant and serious Oscar aficionado will tell you there is arguably nothing more important than timing the delivery of your screener. Many nominations have been won or lost by getting copies of contending movies in front of voters when they actually have time to watch them (or not).
Moviegoers in New York and Los Angeles are going to get a late Thanksgiving treat on Friday as Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech" is finally coming to theaters. Ever since it debuted at Telluride in September, "Speech" has been the buzz of awards pundits and the industry. Not only is the historical drama a prime contender for a number of key Academy Awards categories including best picture, best actor (Colin Firth), best supporting actor (Geoffrey Rush) and best director (Hooper), but it's also The Weinstein Company's biggest potential hit since "Inglourious Basterds" in the summer of 2009.
Whew, Sally Hawkins isn't going to be a one movie wonder. The 2009 Golden Globe winner for her charismatic role in Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky," Hawkins' hasn't been embraced by Hollywood yet, but the Brit is making it increasingly difficult for filmmakers stateside to ignore her. After two supporting roles in "An Education" and "Never Let Me Go," Hawkins has returned with another impressive turn in the new drama "Made in Dagenham" and was almost revelatory in the Toronto Film Festival comedy "Submarine" which will be released next year.
Like a political campaign, awards season is about making the right moves at the right time to take the biggest prize of them all; best picture. There are over 5,000 Academy members studios are looking to win over and some experts argue you can never start too early. While most filmmakers insist they want audiences of any kind to see their films in a theater, the true contenders know screeners sent to member's homes are how you really play the game.
The two prime periods to get Academy and SAG members' attention is over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and during the week between Christmas and New Year's when the town pretty much shuts down. You can argue when is the better time to mail them out, but if you wait until after Christmas, you can become a quick afterthought. This week, two prime best picture contenders, "The Kids Are All Right" and "The Social Network" made sure their screeners arrived before anyone went out of town for Thanksgiving. For "Network," it's a significant move (and gamble) considering the drama is still playing well in theaters. Focus Features also showed it was serious about another drama on its slate, "Somewhere," but sending a screener out over a month before Sofia Coppola's latest even opens in limited release.
LOS ANGELES - DreamWorks Studios announced today that Steven Spielberg is moving forward with his long awaited biopic about the nation's 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, simply titled "Lincoln." More intriguing, Spielberg has chosen two-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis to play the legendary historical figure.
Sometime next month, a friend, colleague or relative will tell you about this "great" movie they just saw. And eventually, you might be surprised to discover it's the tad under the radar David O. Russell drama "The Fighter." Now, it seems odd to think of a Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale movie as "under the radar," but this is one prestige pic that won't be much longer.
Fifteen documentaries out of an initial crowd of one hundred and one will advance into another round of voting to become nominees for the Documentary Feature category of the 83'rd annual Academy Awards. Notable docs include "Waiting For Superman" about our nation's failing school system, "Exit Through the Gift Shop" about famed street artist Banksy, and "The Tillman Story" about the friendly fire military cover up of the death of Pat Tillman.
The Documentary Branch Screening committee viewed all eligible documentaries and will now select five nominees out of the following fifteen, listed in alphabetical order.
- •“Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer,” Alex Gibney, director (ES Productions LLC)
- •“Enemies of the People,” Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath, directors (Old Street Films)
- •“Exit through the Gift Shop,” Banksy, director (Paranoid Pictures)
- •“Gasland,” Josh Fox, director (Gasland Productions, LLC)
- •“Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould,” Michele Hozer and Peter Raymont, directors (White Pine Pictures)
- •“Inside Job,” Charles Ferguson, director (Representational Pictures)
- •“The Lottery,” Madeleine Sackler, director (Great Curve Films)
- •“Precious Life,” Shlomi Eldar, director (Origami Productions)
- •“Quest for Honor,” Mary Ann Smothers Bruni, director (Smothers Bruni Productions)
- •“Restrepo,” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, directors (Outpost Films)
- •“This Way of Life,” Thomas Burstyn, director (Cloud South Films)
- •“The Tillman Story,” Amir Bar-Lev, director (Passion Pictures/Axis Films)
- •“Waiting for ‘Superman’”, Davis Guggenheim, director (Electric Kinney Films)
- •“Waste Land,” Lucy Walker, director (Almega Projects)
- •“William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe,” Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler, directors (Disturbing the Universe LLC)
Among the high profile docs missing from the list are Sundance favorites "Catfish," "Joan Rivers: Piece of Work" and Alex Gibney's "Casino Jack and the United States of Money."
The 83rd Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Tuesday, January 25, 2011, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.
The Oscars will air live Sunday, February 27, 2011, on ABC
One lesson studios have learned about launching new franchises over the past few years is that it doesn't hurt to add a little sophistication or a trendy following to your big screen endeavor. For example, many scoffed that Paramount Pictures could make "your father's" "Star Trek" hip again, but the studio smartly repositioned the movie with layouts in hipster magazines and had original T-shirts designed by RVCA artists. Disney is trying the same tactic with "Tron Legacy." The studio's consumer marketing department has created an upscale line of products including, but not limited to, a pair of slick, glowing Adidas basketball shoes and a line of original Tees created by noted designers Fabien Baron, Douglas Lloyd, Lee Swillingham and Stuart Spalding. Now, Warner Bros. is attempting to get into the mix with their upcoming summer tentpole "Green Lantern."
Awards season isn't always about the flashy Academy screening, huge cocktail party or one pseudo film festival honor after another. A good deal of the awards circuit takes place on a much more low key, but significantly inpactful level. If you can imagine it, sometimes it's actually about the movies (perish the thought). This past week, a number of potential contenders flew key talent to Los Angeles for all important SAG nominating committee Q&A screenings. In particular, Sony Classics brought former best supporting actor winner Jim Broadbent and best actress contender Leslie Manville in from London to push Mike Leigh's "Another Year" and Focus Features recruited New Yorker's Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffall to join co-star Annette Bening and director Lisa Cholodenko to provide some love for last summer's indie hit "The Kids Are All Right.'