Purveyors of art-house films like to talk about the “Oscar bounce,” the phenomenon by which niche movies see a surge in ticket-buying after being nominated for Academy Awards.
This year, few films are bouncing, as “Avatar” dominated the winter months and adult audiences continue to stay away from upscale dramas. Oscar nominees “An Education” and “A Single Man,” for example, have earned only about $2 million apiece since the nominations were announced.
But “Crazy Heart,” a story about an alcoholic, washed-up country singer that wasn’t even scheduled to be released last year — and isn’t contending in the major categories of best picture or best director — has proved a shining exception. The film has earned nearly $20 million since stars Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal were nominated for acting Oscars. (The film received a third nomination for original song.)
By topping the $2-million mark in total domestic box office last weekend, the drama became one of the most successful specialty films released in 2009, despite difficult subject matter and an R rating. Scott Cooper‘s film has shown remarkable staying power. Even as it begins its fourth month of release, the movie continues to widen, going from about 1,150 theaters last week to roughly 1,300 this week. And its numbers in those theaters still impress; the film saw its weekend receipts drop by just 17% last weekend compared with the previous one.
Part of the success of the Fox Searchlight film can be attributed to the simple matter of release date: “Crazy Heart” came out later than many of the other art-house pictures this season, thus avoiding a crowded fall and also benefiting from the February Oscar attention. (The film was initially slated for this spring, but with Bridges headed off to shoot the remake of “True Grit” this month, he would have been unable to promote the film. So Searchlight accelerated the postproduction process and moved up the release to December.)
Searchlight has also been savvy about how quickly to push a film whose appeal isn’t immediately understood from a quick television spot, allowing word-of-mouth to drive it. “The key to a platform release is like Goldilocks: You can’t go too fast and can’t go too slow,” says Fox Searchlight President Stephen Gilula.
But perhaps most notable is the way the movie has crossed over from the art house to a mainstream older audience. The film has performed extremely well among viewers older than 50, which can be gauged by its performance in cities in Florida and elsewhere.
“Bridges is sort of an antihero in the movie, and he’s smoking and drinking, so we weren’t sure how it would play with audiences over 50 or 60,” Gilula says. “But there’s so much goodwill for Bridges and his filmography. This is an actor who has been working for four decades. I think a lot of older people want to see his achievement in this film.”
Maggie Gyllenhaal. Up for Best Supporting for “Crazy Heart.” She said she’d call 4:30 p.m. She called exactly 4:30 p.m. The wind was whistling through her cell phone.
“Sorry for the crackling sounds,” she said. “I’m picking up my daughter at school.”
Through the howling winds, she laughingly recalled how she heard she was nominated.
“I was at my brother’s house in LA not watching it on TV. When the phone first rang, I vaguely thought maybe it was some small small chance that maybe this had to do with Oscar because my name was getting mentioned around the Golden Globes. At that time, my agent called to tell me I didn’t get it. So I thought, ‘Why wake me the f – - – up to tell me I didn’t get it?’ so this time I got an e-mail from my agent.
“What followed was a flurry of calls. It’s a pretty select group you hear from 5:30 in the morning. I was there with my husband and daughter and I didn’t want to keep my daughter up. Finally the phones stopped, and I said to my brother: ‘Maybe I should go to sleep.’ ”
“It’s really exciting and, you know, suddenly everybody wants to talk to you. And I was proud of my work but . . . well . . . I’ve been through the awards route before. When I was first nominated in ’99 I didn’t even know what the National Board of Review was. My next was a Golden Globe nomination for ‘SherryBaby,’ but my baby was tiny, and I was really only focusing on this infant.
“I’ve gone to the Academy Awards before. Once I presented the technical awards. And of course I was there when my brother was nominated. Last year I was doing the play ‘Uncle Vanya,’ and I made a huge bowl of cereal and sat up in bed, still with my period corset on, watching.
“This time I’m really even more into it. I’m thinking, well, maybe, these things really do mean something. But I did let go of the attachment because this time I seemed not to be getting any of the pre-Oscar nominations. I know I do want to go to the parties. I’m working with a couple of designers, and I’m still looking at dresses.”
I’ve added a new and beautiful photoshoot done for the Los Angeles Times in February 2010.
Also sorry about the photoshoot section of the gallery looking a bit funny, am working on organizing all photoshoots into years since it was getting a bit messy with all those shoots.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, nominated for Best Supporting Actress for “Crazy Heart,” is really just happy to be nominated.
“I’m going to enjoy all of it,” she told me the other night at a USA Network/Vanity Fair party held in the thick of the big snowstorm. All the USA Network TV shows were being celebrated–”Characters Approved.” There were lots of TV people roaming around Barry Diller’s magnificent IAC Building lobby waiting to hear the cast of “American Idiot” perform. Gyllenhaal was one of a few who were just being saluted for being themselves. Nora Ephron was another. (The IAC building looked like a giant lit up snowflake on the dreary West Side.)
I ran into Jeffrey Donovan and Bruce Campbell, stars of “Burn Notice.” Tamara Tunie, from “Law and Order,” was there with her singer husband Gregory. Matthew Bomer, star of “White Collar,” brought his blue eyes. (He was once almost cast to play Superman.) Also shaking off the blizzard: Piper Perabo, Saffron Burrows, Gabrielle Anwar, designer Narciso Rodriguez, and “Precious” Best Actress nominee Gabourey Sidibe. An animated Marc Feuerstein, of “Royal Pains,” emceed the presentation of various awards like he was George Jessel at a bar mitzvah.
Constantine Maroulis, of “American Idol” fame, told me he was taking a night off from “Rock of Ages” before heading back into the musical’s grueling weekend schedule (five shows from Friday through Sunday).
And then there was Maggie. “I’m looking forward to doing the whole thing, all the parties. I know it’s crazy, but why not?” she said. I agree! Embrace Oscar Week. “I’m hoping I can bring my mom, too, to the Governors Ball.” That’s screenwriter Naomi Foner. Otherwise, Maggie’s date will be actor husband, Peter Sarsgaard, who shoulda been nominated for his supporting role in “An Education.”
“My mom is throwing me a little party over the weekend,” Maggie confided. “Just family, and my teachers.” Her eyes lit up. “But they we’re going to do everything.” She has a full understanding of M’Onique’s trajectory as the “Precious” favorite.
“She’s the one person I really wanted to meet,” Maggie said. “But she didn’t come to the Nominees Luncheon.”
And Gyllenhaal is psyched for her co-star, the odds on favorite Best Actor, Jeff Bridges. “If he wins, it will bring the movie to a wider audience, and that’s all anyone wants.”