Can’t cash in on Oscar attention

Marketplace Staff Oct 19, 2007

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Doug Krizner: Maybe you’re planning to get to the movies this weekend. Wonder if any of the films out there will get Academy Awards. October is the mid-point in the Oscar season.

Let’s bring in Stuart Levine, he is a managing editor at Variety here in L.A. Stu, these contender films don’t always rake in the big bucks, do they?

Stuart Levine: No. That’s the funny thing, is that the Oscar movies, while they may be the best movies of the year — and then 99 percent of the time, they usually are — very rarely do they make a lot of money. Nobody’s rushing out to see “Lust, Caution,” a film about China. Or nobody’s rushing out to see “In The Valley of Elah,” it’s actually terrific, about the Iraq War. The things that people want to see, stuff like . . . they come out in the summer. Transformers, Spider Man, Harry Potter. Those are the entertainment movies.

Krizner: Now, when the awards or the nominations are actually announced, isn’t there a little bit of lift in the box office?

Levine: Yeah, I think once people find out what the nominees are, and they’ve determined that, “OK, the Academy sees these five films as the best films of the year, we want to check them out.” But normally it’s, these movies are all about prestige. It’s all about the studios, Warner Brothers or Universal, saying, hey, we’ve created Oscars, we created the best films of the past five, 10, whatever years.

Krizner: If history is any judge, what do we know about what the Oscar nominees did in box office last year, and what does that say about what we might be looking at for this season?

Levine: Well last year, it’s really interesting in that only, out of the five nominees, four of them made less than $60 million. And $60 million in money terms is like, you know, it’s nothing. It’s money down the toilet, basically, in most cases. “The Departed,” which actually won Best Picture, made $132 million. But films like “Letters from Iwo Jima,” Clint Eastwood made $13 million.

Krizner: And how much did they spend on trying to get people into the theater?

Levine: They spent a lot of money. Probably more during the summer, because in the summer it’s more all about awareness. Here, it’s more about kind of specialty films. So the marketing costs aren’t as much in the fall. It’s all about pushing these movies for critics to see. The critics, hopefully, will influence Academy voters, Academy voters will vote. And then maybe, after a film is nominated or after a film wins, there’ll be a box-office bump.

Krizner: So what are they saying at Variety — is this a good season for film?

Levine: It’s an interesting season. There’s no 800-pound gorilla. There’s no Lord of the Rings, there’s no Titanic. There’s a lot of really good films out there. I’ve seen a bunch of terrific films — Michael Clayton, “The Kite Runner,” “No Country For Old Men” from the Cohen brothers. There’s a lot of good films, I think it’s gonna be a really interesting race, a lot of even contestants.

Krizner: Stuart Levine is a managing editor at Variety here in L.A. Stu, thanks for joining us. Always a pleasure.

Levine: Thanks, Doug.

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