Oscar nominations for "Amour" as best picture and foreign-language film provided a boost to the one studio that still regularly brings subtitled films to the U.S.
Sony Pictures Classics, the New York-based specialty label owned by the studio behind "Spider-Man" and "Men in Black," also released the last movie to garner Academy Awards nominations in both categories: 2000's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."
Other studios remain in the business of distributing low-budget "prestige" movies for adults through divisions such as Fox Searchlight and Universal Pictures' Focus Features. But SPC is known for releasing films that are particularly challenging commercially, including "Amour," from Austria, and "Rust and Bone" and "Chicken With Plums," from France, last year.
None of those movies has grossed more than $1 million in the U.S. and Canada. But with five nominations, including screenplay and actress, "Amour" may now have promotional ammunition to reach a broader audience.
"This is a movie where nominations like that will really help its success at the box office and really make a difference," said Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics. "It just means the world to the life of a movie like this."
Director Michael Haneke's film about an aging couple coping with dementia has the lowest box-office take of any movie nominated for a best picture Oscar in at least 25 years. Currently playing in only three theaters in Los Angeles and New York, it has sold just $368,000 worth of tickets domestically.
Sony Classics plans to expand "Amour" to 15 theaters Friday and then slowly grow its release throughout February if ticket sales in new locations prove robust.
But given its subject matter and small budget, "Amour" certainly does not have to replicate the performance of "Crouching Tiger" to be regarded as a success. Ang Lee's martial arts movie had collected $61 million when nominations were announced in February 2001, and went on to generate a total of $128 million.
Staff writer Mark Olsen contributed to this report.