In a novel solution to Hollywood's widespread ban on free awards-season videocassettes, Fox Searchlight will send out complimentary movie tickets to its film "In America" to about 25,000 awards voters nationwide.
"We think we have a movie that is a contender, and we want to make sure that it is successful," said Stephen Gilula, distribution president for Searchlight, Fox's specialized film unit. The company's unusual ticket proposal had to be approved by a special board meeting Friday of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences because academy regulations don't cover ticket giveaways.
Last month, Searchlight started renting out four local multiplexes to showcase writer-director Jim Sheridan's autobiographical immigrant story, but attendance by awards voters has been light. The studio also has been holding private screenings in New York and San Francisco to promote the film for awards' consideration. "In America" debuts Nov. 26.
As soon as next week, Searchlight plans to send ticket vouchers to members of the academy, leading Hollywood talent unions, film critics groups and the organization that presents the Golden Globes. The vouchers can be exchanged for a pair of tickets at any theater in the nation showing "In America."
On Sept. 30, the seven major studios announced a ban on the distribution of awards-season videocassettes and DVDs. The ban was modified Oct. 23 so that only the 5,800 academy voters could receive specially encoded videocassettes.
To court the thousands of other awards voters, the studios have scheduled private screenings, but have struggled to get voters to attend. Searchlight is the first studio to use a national ticket giveaway.