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Looking ahead at as awards season kicks off

By Staff | Dec 28, 2016

Multiplexes will continue to bask in the popularity of “Rogue Wars: A Star Wars Story” during January. The spin-off debuted in mid-December.

However, as January comes nearer, the “Awards Season,” which wrapped back at the Toronto film festival in September shifts nationwide. Most of the niche films start building popularity at film festivals. Distributors will pick up some films and try them in limited releases playing in large cities or near large universities. Once critical acclaim, nominations and word of mouth builds, they spread into the heartland supported by critical hype and number of nominations. These “niche” and/or “art” films have an emphasis on little told stories and strong acting performances.

West Virginia generally receives few of these sophisticated productions, unless snatched by a film festival for a big screen viewing. Charleston, Huntington and Morgantown, due to the number of screens and nearby universities, irregularly show films like “Moonlight” or “La La Land,” dependent upon film distributor choice and the willingness of the cinema chain to take a risk on an unknown quantity that may contractually tie up a screen for multiple weeks.

Cinema operators generally profit from concession, not ticket sales. A large percentage of ticket sales go to the film’s distributor.

The film exhibition and production industry has often been compared to “rolling the dice” in Vegas. They place odds on Oscar choices, too.

Uppity big city critic organizations which sponsor major awards ceremonies generally disfavor popular, mainstream favorites. The special effects tentpoles may wind up with F/X nominations but not prestigeous acting, directing or best picture nominations.

The 2016 season has numerous anomalies, specifically films having played earlier during the year, and a few anticipated nominees that tanked during expansion from core cities to 500-1,000 screens.

Sundance favorite “Birth of a Nation” gained a $17.5 million pick up by Fox Searchlight. A period drama, it follows a literate slave and preacher played by Nate Parker. However, the advance press revealed a 1999 alleged rape by director/star Parker and writer Jean McGianni Celestin. The accuser committed suicide in 2012.

Bad press cast a shadow over the widening release in mid-October. The film took in only about $15 million.

“Moonlight,” which concerns a bullied gay African American boy who becomes a drug dealer has achieved six Globe nominations, but the film has already fallen off when exposed to a wider release of about 600 screens. As of this writing, it has only $10 million in ticket sales nationwide. A similar failure to ignite occurred with “Billy Lyon’s Long Halftime Walk,” which contrasts the so-called glories of war heroics (in Iraq) with the realities encased in each soldier’s head.

On the up front, a tribute to the big Hollywood musical of the 40s/50s, “La La Land” has emerged as a favorite for Best Picture. It has seven Golden Globe nominations. A new take on the big Hollywood musicals of the era, it stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Similarly, “Manchester by the Sea,” which received five Globe noms features Casey Affleck as a depressed Boston janitor returning to his hometown.

Numerous mainstream films that have completed their theatrical runs, such as Clint Eastwood for “Sully” and Tom Hanks as Best Actor are projected. Hacksaw Ridge will likely receive nominations too.

Many of the animated Golden Globe nominations are playing or have already played. They are “Kubo and the Two Strings,” “Moana,” “My Life as a Zucchini,” “Sing” and “Zootopia”.

The Golden Globes, Screen Actor’s Guild and Producer’s Guild Awards all have foreshadowing strength for the Oscar contest. The Academy Awards will be broadcast on Feb. 26.