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Oscar campaigning: How soon is now?

August 11, 2010 |  3:18 pm

Studios these days are so eager to get a jump on awards season that it certainly won't be long before consultants start the campaign for one season's movies before the previous season ends.

Over the last few years, the race to be first has crept earlier; the first screeners, for instance, now frequently go out as early as September. It hasn't always worked -- in 2007, Fox Searchlight sent out a September package with  "The Namesake," "Once" and "Waitress," and generated exactly one Oscar nomination -- but the perception is that getting out first can establish a film, especially if that film is something of an underdog. And so awards creep continues.

Oscars We've been blissfully free of 2011 Oscar talk so far. But with agenda-setting festivals in Telluride, Toronto and Venice just a few weeks away, that won't be the case for long. And although mid-August is still far too early to start seriously handicapping the race, it's not too early, apparently, for rumblings to start from a campaign itself.

Or at least so believe the consultants working on "Get Low," the Robert Duvall-Bill Murray black comedy about a living man's funeral, who have begun putting out the word they will be handling the movie during awards season. "I'm surely not looking to scare anyone," went the beginning of an e-mail we received earlier this week, before going on to do just that. (Well, telling us they'd be working on the film. But it was a little scary).

In a sense there's little that a quirky underdog like "Get Low" has to lose with an early flier. The movie hasn't been high on most pundits' radars, so trying to establish it as an awards candidate with an e-mail like this can only get the film more attention, especially as the Sony Pictures Classics title  widens its release.  (The movie went from four to 26 theaters last weekend, its second in release, grossing about $8,000 per screen.) Campaigning for the heavier awards-season favorites -- movies such as "The Social Network" "Miral" and "Never Let Me Go" -- can begin later, when pundits are paying closer attention.

But though there's a logic to studios getting people to notice the smaller movies now, before they're too tired to notice, there's a downside for the rest of us. If we're starting to feel the effects of studio strategizing now, we can only wonder how fatigued we'll feel when the real campaigning starts.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Oscar statuettes. Credit: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

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Its the same ... all the years: the same!!


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