Surely, the question has occurred to you: Why isn't Oscar-mad Harvey Weinstein releasing "Inglourious Basterds" in Oscar-friendly November or December? Doesn't he have faith that "Inglourious Basterds" can run the derby? Hey, Quentin Tarantino proved himself in 1994 when "Pulp Fiction" was nominated for best picture and Tarantino won best screenplay.
Last year, Harvey held back "The Reader" to the last possible stretch, giving it a limited opening in Los Angeles and New York in December, then wide release in January. The strategy paid off with five Academy Award nominations -- including a surprise bid (to some, not us) for best picture -- resulting in the Big Win at Long Last for Kate Winslet as best actress.
Answer: Harvey plans to reserve that last-minute, ambush strategy he employed for "The Reader" for his other major Oscar pony, "Nine," Rob Marshall's adaptation of the Tony-winning musical starring Penelope Cruz, Daniel Day-Lewis and Marion Cotillard. For "Inglourious Basterds," he plans to use the "Crash" campaign model.
By releasing "Inglourious Basterds" in theaters now, Harvey can give the flick a second wave of ballyhoo when the DVD comes out late this year. Because the DVD will be a mass release, it won't need to be watermarked with numerals identifying each disc with the name of an academy member or other award voter. That's one of the sneaky ways "Crash" beat front-runner "Brokeback Mountain" for best picture of 2005 -- Lionsgate blitzed Hollywood with more than 120,000 cheap DVDs.
To manufacture and ship a watermarked DVD costs about $20. The cost for a non-watermarked equivalent: $5.
Beware, Hollywood. Given how red rivers flow in Tarantino pix, the town will be engulfed in a blood tide this December when Harvey unleashes his "Inglourious Basterds" DVD campaign. It will probably pay off with two Academy Award nominations: best screenplay (Tarantino) and supporting actor (Christoph Waltz). Maybe more. "Pulp Fiction" got nommed for best picture when there were only five slots; this year there will be twice as many.
Photo: Weinstein Co.