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Cashing in on Oscar

Part of the 79th Academy Awards Commemorative Poster

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

BOB MOON: The buzz from this week's Academy Award Nominations has settled here in Tinseltown. You've likely heard about how multicultural the list of nominees for the acting awards is. Or how Dreamgirls scored the highest number of nominations, but was left out of the categories of Best Picture and Best Director. I checked in with Daily Variety's Michael Speier, and he tells me any Oscar nomination is a boost to the bottom line.

MICHAEL SPEIER: Every movie, depending on if it's an indie or if it's a big movie, whether it's opened wide already or it's coming down the pike, the nomination is so important but it's really important because it means financial success for all of them to some degree, just in different ways.

MOON: Well what about a movie that's already out on DVD, let's say, The Devil Wears Prada is already out there, it's a product that's on the shelf. How does a nomination help that?

SPEIER: It helps it because DVD is kind of the gravy for studios. I mean for so many years everyone was talking about box office and then along came DVD and it opened up this new revenue stream. So an Oscar nomination for let's say Best Picture or Best Actress category in the case of Prada — and Best Costumes but really Best Actress — that just gives it new life. They can advertise, they can change their marketing plan in terms of what they put on the DVD. It just changes their life in the rental store and that's a big deal because it makes million and millions of dollars of difference.

MOON: What are some of the other directions that these nominations can lead?

SPEIER: There are certain times an Oscar nomination can just really, really add to a movie's coffers and you're going to see that I think with something like Babel. Because this is a movie that started slow at the box office, it didn't start in a lot of theaters, it did expand but it didn't quite hit critical mass. And now all of a sudden it wins the Golden Globe. It gets an Oscar nomination. It's in high gear and so this is the time when that can really capitalize if it expands more and people talk about it, and the machine can get going from the studio.

MOON: Now financially does a nomination mean something right away to an actor or an actress who gets a nomination?

SPEIER: You see that down the road. A perfect example is Eddie Murphy. I mean his career was sky-high and then it kid of flatlined a little bit and now he's back. It was announced that he's gonna be starring in a big comedy at the studio called Nowhereland. And that's what you're gonna see. You're gonna see some actors come back in a huge way. Some actors take that nomination and parlay it into real success and fame. You'll see that with someone like Rinko Kikuchi from Babel. Someone like that who really wasn't known before. Now she has a Oscar nomination, everyone wants to work with her.

MOON: Well speaking of Nowhereland, does a nomination sometimes lead nowhere fo an actor or actress?

SPEIER: Absolutely. I mean the path is littered with Oscar winners who haven't really gone anywhere. I mean people like Marisa Tomei, people like Mira Sorvino. They have Oscars. You don't see their names in the head marquee, in the top marquee for major studio movies anymore and a lot of people think, you know, there's a curse. But whether there's a curse or not, it's not a guarantee. But it's better than not winning.

MOON: Michael Speier of Daily Variety, thank you.

SPEIER: My pleasure.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

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