No, “Maps to the Stars” will not have a costly Oscars campaign, but it will aim for other kudos. An executive involved with the film tells Gold Derby exclusively that “Maps” and Julianne Moore (winner, Best Actress at Cannes) are in the running for Golden Globes, BAFTA, film critics’ trophies, and SAG and other guild awards.
In fact, discussions are currently under way with the film’s handlers and all of those awards, which are much easier to win without hefty campaign investment required at the Oscars. For example, to qualify for the Globes, a film just needs to debut for one week in one Los Angeles theater during 2014. After that, “Maps” promoters just need to screen it for the 90 HFPA members, send them DVDs and do a special press conference for the foreign journos. That’s all. Currently, the plan is for “Maps” to compete in the Globes’ comedy/musical categories, but no decision has yet been made about placing Julianne Moore in lead or supporting.
Many of the guilds like SAG have screening committees that decide nominations and are easy to access for a reasonable investment. Voters in the film-critics’ groups can be targeted efficiently, too. In fact, many of them are seeing “Maps” today at the Toronto International Film Festival.
By contrast, to launch “Maps” effectively into the Oscars derby could cost up to $20 million, which is what many frontrunners have spent in recent years. Technically, a film may qualify after unspooling just one week in a L.A theater just like the Globes, but it needs a fullblown campaign to bring it to the attention of lazy academy members who insist upon private screenings, personal copies of the DVD and more.
U.S. distribution rights to “Maps to the Stars” were just acquired by Focus World, the digital division of Focus Features. It sometimes books films into a few select theaters, but mostly rolls out wide to digital platforms like iTunes, Amazon, Netfflix and On Demand services offered by Verizon FiOS and AT&T Uverse.
Frankly, the company doesn’t have the promotional budget needed to do an effective Oscar run. It’s sad commentary on what’s become of the Academy Awards derby when producers and distributors automatically throw in the towel and admit they can’t compete.
But in order to jockey for Oscars, producers must commit to hiring a seasoned campaigner and to staging dozens of industry screenings on both coasts – many of them with their film’s stars, directors and writers in attendance at Q&As. The cost of hauling all those A-Listers around can be staggering. Campaigns must be backed up with expensive FYC ad budgets. At the very least, producers must commit to spending more than $150,000 to distribute watermarked DVDs to 6,000 academy members shipped via FedEx or UPS. Ideally, thousands of additional DVDs should be sent to key guilds as well. Keep in mind that there are 16,000 members of DGA and 150,000 of SAG.
Yes, “Maps to the Stars” might accidentally stumble into the Oscar derby on its own if it does well at the Globes, SAG and other kudos, but that’s extremely unlikely. Over the past 40 years, only one film managed to get nominated for Best Picture without an official Oscar campaign: “American Graffiti” – and that was hard to ignore because it was the #1 box office hit of 1973. Universal didn’t bother to launch an academy campaign for “Graffiti” because the studio didn’t believe the young hipster flick jibed with the old academy demo, but when it won Best Comedy/Musical Picture at the Globes, shocked studio execs shoved it into Oscars competition at the last minute.
It ended up with five nominations, including Best Picture and Director (George Lucas). Curiously, it also scored a supporting actress bid for Candy Clark, who had brazenly mounted her own solo Oscar campaign early on, paying for FYC campaign ads in Variety and Hollywood Reporter.
Denying Moore a new shot at academy gold is especially tragic considering she’s lost four times in the past: “Far from Heaven” and “The Hours” (2002), “End of the Affair” (1999) and “Boogie Nights” (1997). If she had a new Oscar campaign, its theme would obviously be “She’s overdue!” — which worked for Kate Winslet and many other stars. Now that theme will be the exclusive message this year of Amy Adams, who’s in the running for “Big Eyes” after suffering five defeats in past years. It would’ve been fascinating to watch Winslet and Adams square off in a Best Actress smackdown.