Studios begin Oscar gold rush

/ Source: CNBC

With the announcement of this year’s Academy Awards nominations, Hollywood's gold rush has begun. But the studios are toning down their Oscar campaigns this year even as they expand the distribution of their nominated movies.

Among the roles up for an award are an entrepreneur, an artist, a dreamer, a contender and a lover — all five of this year's Best Picture nominees are about characters who triumph over adversity.

All five also came out in the final three months of  2004 — which is no accident, now that Oscar nominations are announced in late January.

“The closer they release the film to the actual date, the more likely people are going to see it and remember it,” said Robert Dowling, editor in chief of The Hollywood Reporter.

‘Pent up demand’
The studios are moving quickly to capitalize on their Oscar nominations. Warner Brothers will expand “Million Dollar Baby” from limited to wide release, Fox Searchlight will likely do the same with “Sideways.” And in addition to putting “Ray” back on hundreds of screens, Universal plans to release the DVD February 1st, three weeks before Oscar night.

“If you look at the five films that are up for best picture, none of them have done $100 million at the box office,” said Anthony DiClemente, and industry analyst at Lehman Brothers. “So that suggests to me that there's some pent-up demand for those films.”

African-Americans got a record five of the 20 acting nominations for 2004, with Jamie Foxx up for best actor in “Ray” and best supporting actor in “Collateral.”

Composer John Williams gets his 43rd nomination for his Harry Potter score. That's more than any other living person, though far short of the record 64 nominations earned by the late Walt Disney.

The surprise omission this year: Paul Giamatti's critically acclaimed performance in “Sideways.”

“It just shows you that the film is not as strong with Academy voters, and they're looking for something more epic, bigger scale,” said Gitesh Pandya, founder and editor of “It really is a year about some of the older filmmakers, and unfortunately Paul Giamatti didn't make the cut this year.”

With 11 nods for “The Aviator” and seven for “Finding Neverland,” Miramax dominates the Oscar nominations once again. But the studio is not campaigning as aggressively this year, perhaps because founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein are about to leave the Disney-owned company.

Other studios are also toning down their lobbying efforts in the wake of stricter regulations from the Academy.