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Shrewd DVD strategies paid off for Oscar nominees

January 22, 2009 |  2:35 pm

So how did Melissa Leo pull off that underdog Oscar nomination for best actress? Perhaps it was because "Frozen River" was the first DVD screener shipped to academy members back in late September.

Such an early-out-of-the-gate strategy certainly helped "Little Miss Sunshine" in the 2006 derby, resulting in four Oscar nominations, including a bid for best picture. "Sunshine" reaped two wins: best supporting actor (Alan Arkin) and original screenplay (Michael Arndt).


Other films that did well in past derbies, like "Juno" and "Hustle and Flow," arrived early in the mailboxes of Oscar voters too. This year that strategy might have helped best actor nominee Richard Jenkins and a certain best picture contender since "The Visitor" and "Slumdog Millionaire" were among the first dozen DVDs to get into Oscar voters' hands. The screeners didn't arrive until around Nov. 15-20, but that was still before the blizzard of other DVDs buried Oscar voters closer to Yuletide.

That shrewd Oscar campaigner Harvey Weinstein — who's finally back in the derby in a big way after splitting with Miramax back in 2005 — tried things both ways this year,  sending out "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" early (Oct. 24) and "The Reader" late (Dec. 16-18). While getting out early has its obvious advantages, Harvey has told me that he thinks it's sometimes a good idea to be the last movie seen, too. Thus the film is fresher on the minds of voters. Late DVD shipment worked well for his past films like "Iris" (best supporting actor, Jim Broadbent).

Below is Gold Derby's exclusive list of when DVD screeners were received by all 5,800 Oscar voters.


DEC. 23 -- "Australia "

DEC. 22 -- "In Bruges"

DEC. 19-22 — "Seven Pounds"

DEC. 16-18 — "The Reader," "Tale of Despereaux"

DEC. 13-15 — "Revolutionary Road," "Gran Torino," "Good," "Bolt," "Defiance," "Mamma Mia!"

DEC. 6-12 — "Doubt," "Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "W."

DEC. 2-5 — "Milk," "The Dark Knight," "Changeling," "Kung Fu Panda," "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa"

NOV. 28-DEC. 1 — "Wall-E," "Elegy," "Nothing but the Truth," "What Doesn't Kill You," "The Yellow Handkerchief," "Synecdoche, New York"

NOV. 21-27 — "Frost/Nixon," "The Duchess," "Quantum of Solace," "The Wrestler," "Che"

NOV. 15-20 — "Slumdog Millionaire," "Rachel Getting Married," "Last Chance Harvey," "Traitor," "The Visitor"

NOV. 7 — "I've Loved You So Long"

NOV. 1 — "Burn After Reading"

OCT. 24 — "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

LATE SEPT. — "Frozen River"


UPDATED LIST: When Oscar voters received DVD screeners

The last Oscar DVD screener sent to the full academy: "Australia"

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Illustration: Tom O'Neil

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