Can Late-Arriving Oscar Contenders Still Break Through – With Voters and Audiences?

“Judas and the Black Messiah” and “Minari” are the first in a series of films trying to get audience attention while thousands of theaters are closed

With the last wave of Oscar contenders opening in coming weeks ahead of the Academy’s new Feb. 28 eligibility deadline, studios are contending with special challenges in building momentum since traditional theatrical releases are still mostly sidelined due to the pandemic.

This weekend, Warner Bros.’ “Judas and the Black Messiah” and A24’s “Minari” will be the first of a series of Oscar hopefuls trying to gain mainstream buzz ahead — with more to come through the end of the month. But building on box office performance as studios have done in the past just isn’t an option in 2021 — nor is it really possible to capitalize on awards attention to boost ticket sales when most U.S. theaters remain shut down.

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Jeremy Fuster

Jeremy Fuster

Box Office Reporter • jeremy.fuster@thewrap.com