Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Countdown to the Oscars & Just Who I Think I Am

I haven't seen any official announcements about the 2010 Academy Awards ceremony (which would be the 2009 awards, natch), but if the pattern holds, they'll be held in L.A. on the last Sunday in February - which would be February 28, 2010.

Today being August 12, 2009, there are just about 200 days between now and Oscar night. Which kind of works to both the advantage and disadvantage of "The Hurt Locker."

To the movie's advantage, there's a lot of time on the clock to raise its profile.

But for all practical purposes, I've gotta think that the film's theatrical run will end in another week or two. Maybe I'm wrong, but it's been in domestic distribution for almost two months and is now on only 535 screens. Although "The Hurt Locker's" per-screen average this past Friday, Saturday, and Sunday was better than such box office luminaries as "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," "The Proposal," "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," and "The Hangover," it's still grossed just north of $9 million overall.

Now, there aren't that many BIG SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS left. Everyone knows that "G.I. Joe" won't have much in terms of legs. It's a silly piece of tripe--maybe enjoyable for a lot of people, but in the end just as disposable as the paper popcorn carton a lot of moviegoers will leave on the theatre floor as they shuffle out with the funny feeling that maybe they should've been doing something more worthwhile the last two hours of their lives.

"District 9," due this Friday, has a lot of buzz--and an Entertainment Weekly cover--going for it, but it's still a Sci-Fi picture, and thus primarily a fringe work, a niche product if you will (and I'm not ragging on SF, I've seen a lot of it in my day and I still watch and like a good bit of it, and I've even been to conventions, thank you--if SF is fringe material, then I'm on the fringe at least sometimes too). I think "District 9" will do well because it looks good and is being marketed well and is getting good reviews so far and has Peter Jackson's name on it, but it isn't going to be on 4,000 screens. Maybe half that. We'll see.

So the bottom line is that while there are some screens available for "The Hurt Locker," this far into the run, there's going to have to be compelling case made for it to get to them. Again, we'll see. I'd love nothing better than to see that 535 screen total jump to 700 or 800 or even 1,000 this weekend, and see it start raking in some bucks, but I don't know that much about the vagaries of movie distribution so that could just be a cheap-seater's pipedream.

But let's assume that "The Hurt Locker" has peaked on domestic US screens, and may hold on for another week or two, but much after the end of August, experiencing the film in a theater -- where it really deserves to be seen -- is going to be a lost cause.

That means around six months will remain between the time "The Hurt Locker" leaves US cineplexes and the awarding of the 2009 Oscars; of course, the nominations have to come out first, shortening that gap a bit. And there are critics' year end lists and all sorts of smaller awards to hand out. Still, keeping the movie on the Academy selectors' radar screens is going to be a challenge.

I hope that Summit Entertainment and the producers and marketers behind the movie can pull it off. Oscar doesn't usually like lower-grossing pictures that open before December. There are exceptions, but in general, it's a short attention-span world, and out of sight of course equals out of mind.

We'll see.

By the way: just because time may be running out to see this movie on a big screen DOESN'T MEAN THAT IT'S TOO LATE. I urge everyone who hasn't seen "The Hurt Locker" and who even remotely enjoys films to give this movie a shot if it's playing anywhere that's even slightly accessible. Like I wrote in one of my posts yesterday, if you're afraid of some preachy, angst-ridden "why-are-we-there?" dissection of the Iraq War, don't be. If you're afraid of some chest-thumping jingoistic claptrap, don't be. IT ISN'T ABOUT THAT.

By the way #2: I realize that some may be wondering just who in the world I think I am. It's a little bit pompous and delusional that think that I, who's outside of even the Hollywood outsiders, can have any bearing whatsoever on the success of this movie.

But I thought the movie was great and I love it and I want people to see it because I think a lot of people would love it too. Assuming the average movie ticket is around $10 (that's what I paid), and the total domestic gross is just about $9 million, that means only around 900,000 people have seen it to date - roughly, .3% of the country.

Now a lot of people like escapist entertainment, and a lot of people would rather go and see giant robots kicking the crap out of each other for two and a half hours (the 2.5 hour running time of the new "Transformers" still blows my mind -- when did "Transformers" become "Lord of the Rings?!?")

I've got nothing against escapist entertainment myself, having indulged in quite a bit of it in my 3+ decades on earth. It has a place and like chocolate cake with a cold glass of milk, it may not be the best thing in the world for you but sometimes it's just what you need.

But "The Hurt Locker" is smart cinematic art, intelligent and well-made, and it deserves an audience. And maybe I won't impact the movie's box office intake or awards chances one iota with this blog, but what the hell, I feel like I want to try.

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