erik lundegaard

B.O. for Best Pics

Two summers ago, in the Montpellier train station in southern France, I saw a poster touting the popularity of “Shrek the Third.” It read:
“Plus de 4 millions de Shrektateurs”

That 4 millions isn’t euros; it’s people. It’s asses in the seats. That’s how movie popularity is tabulated in France. As opposed to in the U.S. where it’s all about the dollars, and where, if you’re paying any attention at all, you have to adjust for inflation to get the true measure of a movie’s popularity.

Feel free to let each measurement stand for each culture.

So it’s the Friday after the noms and the studios are busy things. Universal, unwilling to do the heavy lifting for “Frost/Nixon” in December, is finally expanding Ron Howard’s film from 153 theaters to more than 1,000. Other films that are expanding: “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Wrestler,” “Rachel Getting Married,” “Revolutionary Road.” There’s a pattern, and it follows the pattern of previous years, and it’s getting a little old.

That said, here’s how the best picture nominees look in terms of box office before the expansion:

Domestic $
Thtr High
2008 BO Rank
 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
 $104M 2988 22
 Slumdog Millionaire
 $44M 582 62
 Milk $20M 356 111
 Frost/Nixon $8M 205 145
 The Reader
 $8M 507 148

Kudos to the way Paramount handled “Benjamin Button.” It put it out there in December. It didn’t wait for the Academy to bestow what it would. More congrats to Fox Searchlight who pushed “Slumdog” in the right ways.

But — and I’ve said it before — what lazy bastards over at Universal. In some ways “Frost/Nixon” is the most accessible of these films and yet it is, until the noms, the least-available. 145th??? I’m almost hoping it bites it at the box office during the next few weeks. Just to show Universal. Of course they’d probably take the wrong lesson away from the experience and stop getting involved in films like "Frost/Nixon" altogether.

Meanwhile, their art-house division, Focus Features, rumored to be on life-support, appears to be doing nothing with “Milk.” Of the little-seen best picture nominees, it’s the one that’s not expanding, and it's the one, along with "Slumdog," that's most deserving of a big audience.

Feel free to let that irony stand for the culture.

No tagsPosted at 09:47 AM on Fri. Jan 23, 2009 in category Movies - The Oscars  
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