Oscars 2012: ‘Descendants’ expanding rapidly, ‘The Artist’ slowly


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‘The Artist’ and ‘The Descendants’ came out of Tuesday’s Oscar nominations as top contenders for best picture, but one will be much easier to find in theaters this weekend than the other.

Fox Searchlight is planning a major expansion of the George Clooney drama ‘The Descendants,’ expanding the film’s run this Friday to more than 1,900 theaters from 560.


The Weinstein Co., meanwhile, is taking a more measured approach to the release of its black-and-white silent movie ‘The Artist.’ It will add fewer than 250 theaters this week, going to about 900 from 662.

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‘The Descendants’ was always scheduled to add at least 1,000 theaters this week, said Searchlight Executive Vice President of Distribution Sheila Deloach. But the movie performed well last weekend after it won best picture (drama) and best actor (drama) at the Golden Globes the previous Sunday. Box-office receipts increased 13% to $2.4 million even though the film dropped 100 theaters.

As a result, the picture is expanding even more rapidly than previously planned and should add substantially to its $51.3-million box office total.

By contrast, Weinstein Co. is planning a slower roll-out of ‘The Artist’ over the next few weeks.

The French movie has already been following such a course, to mixed results. Last weekend it expanded to 662 screens from 216 and grossed almost exactly as much as ‘The Descendants’ at 560, bringing its to-date domestic total to $12.1 million.


People who have seen detailed box-office data said the film has continued to perform well in big cities -- including Los Angeles, Chicago and New York -- where it has been playing several weeks. But in new markets such as Sunrise, Fla., where it debuted last weekend, ticket sales were substantially lower.

Weinstein Co. marketing president Stephen Bruno said that while the independent studio can drive awareness of the movie through advertisements, audiences are likely to be initially hesitant about a black-and-white silent film.’When people see the movie and talk to their friends, the grosses hold up,’ he said.

Paramount Pictures will modestly expand “Hugo” on Friday to 944 theaters from 650. The Nov. 23 release’s ticket sales have flattened out this month at $56 million but Tuesday’s Oscar attention could help director Martin Scorsese’s big-budget 3-D family movie add to its bottom line.

‘Hugo’ garnered 11 nominations Tuesday -- more than any other film. ‘The Artist’ received 10 nods and ‘The Descendants’ received five.


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‘The Artist,’ despite slams, deserves Oscar front-runner status

-- Ben Fritz