How the Weinstein Co. Plans to Turn Its ‘Artist’ Oscar Win Into Box-Office Gold

The Artist Big Picture.jpg

The Weinstein Co. stands to gain some $20 million at the box office for “The Artist” following its best picture win. It will be in 2,000 theaters this Friday

Don't expect to see "The Artist," winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, on DVD any time soon.

Do expect to see this year's in more theaters — more than double the number — starting next weekend.  

Also read: Oscar Analysis: Here's How "The Artist" Charmed Its Way to Victory

The Weinstein Co. plans to increase the number of theaters showing its movie from 966 last weekend to 2,000 on Friday.

"We're going to give it the chance to get that big box-office bump that it can get from the Academy Award," Erik Lomis, the Weinstein Co.'s distribution president, told TheWrap.  

It could be more than a bump.

Now in its 14th week of release, the movie has grossed about $31.8 million. By the time it ends its theatrical run — likely months from now — that number could easily increase to $50 million.

Last year's Best Picture winner "The Kings's Speech," grossed $114.2 million before winning the Academy Award. After that, it took another $20.6 million.

"The Artist," nearly silent and shot in black-and-white, is something of an anomaly, however, so comparisons to quirkier Best Picture winners might be more appropriate.  

The 1988 winner "The Last Emperor" had grossed $25.2 million before it won. It took another $16.3 million after its win, for a total of $41.5 million. "Amadeus," the 1985 winner, took about $35 million before winning and $17 million more after.

"The Last Emperor" was a 3 hour 39 minute film, and "Amadeus" was the story of a classical music composer.

Those movies, of course, were before the modern multiplex, when release patterns were far different from today. Distribution executives at several studios, however, say the result will be similar.

More recently, "Million Dollar Baby" took about $65 million before winning the 2005 Oscar and another $35 million after.

From the outset, The Weinstein Company tailored its release strategy to take advantage of the publicity an Oscar generates.

And it needed it. "The Artist" isn't the sort of movie that lends itself to a traditional wide release.

"It's a fantastic film, and we know that it plays great to all ages," Lomis said. "But when you look at it, it's still a silent, black-and-white film."

That presented obstacles.

A 30-second television spot can't sell a movie like that, and neither can a typical trailer.

"It's not something you can just throw out there," Lomis said. "It needs time, needs to build word of mouth. And look, there's certainly no greater forum to put it on than the Academy Awards."

Lomis said his boss, Harvey Weinstein, designed a meticulous release strategy. A distribution executive at a rival studio called it "methodical."

The movie opened on four screens on Nov. 25. It increased to six screens on Dec. 6, and then to 16, 17, 167, 172, 216, 662 and 897.

By Feb. 12, it was at its widest release so far — 1,005 locations. On Feb. 10, it was back down to 808, and up to 966 on Feb. 24.

Last weekend, the movie grossed $3 million — pretty strong for a 14-week-old movie. It could well do $5 million next  weekend.

"It really is going to be a true test of what the statue means in terms of getting people into the theater for something that a lot of moviegoers are afraid of — black-and-white and silent, because to them, that sounds like a boring night at the movies," Phil Contrino, editor of Boxoffice.com, told TheWrap Monday. 

But he also said what many in Hollywood have learned: Never underestimate Weinstein.

"It was timed perfectly," Contrino said. "There's nobody better at the Oscars game than Harvey Weinstein."