by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
Awards Contenders Still Stirring Mainstream Boxoffice Choices

By their very nature specialty (also known as 'art') films appeal to a more narrow and designated segment of the moviegoing audience. Those who favor superhero and outer space tentpole franchises (Marvel, "Star Wars," "Star Trek," DC) likely will not be standing in line for usually lower budget, prestige films placing emphasis on story, acting, and cinematography rather than special effects. 

Academy Award Nominations due Jan. 23 likely will neglect flicks that pulled the most customers into multiplexes such as "The Last Jedi," "Guardians of the Galaxy 2," "It," and "Logan."

One film from the superhero genre --- Wonder Woman --- and its director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot has risen in spite of "me too" buzz, though the Harvey Weinstein fallout casts a shadow on voters.

Three Billboards
Three Billboards

Kevin Spacey was edited out of "All the Money in the World" (replaced by Christopher Plummer ), but a new revelation about the film has once again stirred ire ----  Michelle Williams received only ONE PERCENT of the salary of male lead Mark Wahlberg, placing the continuing disparities between male and female star salaries (and corporate salaries in general) in the spotlight just a week before Oscar noms are announced. 

The power of awards fever has been demonstrated by the upswing revival and second expansion of "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri," which nabbed Best Picture and Best Actress at the Globes went back on 712 screens while Gobe best comedy/musical "Lady Bird" picked up 90 new runs. 

"Three Billboards" and "Ladybird" in their tenth and 11th weeks respectively both finished out of the MLK top ten but the former recorded a 225.2% revenue jump, according to Box Office Mojo/Hollywood Reporter. 

"Shape of Water," director Guillermo del Toro's romantic science fiction creature feature fantasy picked up a Globe for Best Director and eight Critic's Choice Awards. Sally Hawkins, as a mute plain Jane in the 60s falling for an amphibian , continues competing with Frances McDormand for Best Actress. McDormand has so far been dominating the wins.

Shape of Water
Shape of Water

HNN wrote in its review:

 

"Three Billboards" would be a standard execution of vengeance ( "Death Wish," "Walking Tall," "Harper Valley P.T.A.") plot, except the script highlights glimpses of the buried, inner emotions of its characters. 

Hinting without spoiling, the hard faced, gravel voiced, non-smiling Mildred appears a concrete stone until you see her turn over an upside down roach and call 911 as soon as the Chief starts spitting blood (it's a well known secret that he has cancer)

"Already an Oscar ("Fargo"), Tony and Emmy winner, McDormand's crusade recalls the Academy Award winning performance of Sally Field, as Norma Rae, a union organizer at a southern textile plant. She's incredibly stone willed yet occasionally utters a phrase that pierces her armor. You see the grieving mom, her guilt (for what she said to Angela in their last argument), her strong spunk, and a hint of logic." 

http://www.huntingtonnews.net/153484

"Darkest Hour" and "Molly's Game" cracked the MLK Top 11 with "The Post" gaining a strong expansion finishing #2 to "Welcome to the Jungle."

"I Tonya," "Phantom Thread," "Call Me by Your Name," "Disaster Artist" and "Hostiles" (a Christian Bale western compared to "Unforgiven") have awards buzz and other favorable spin,except for "Hostiles," which from limited results may or may not break out when it goes into wide release on Jan. 19.

Forever My Girl
Forever My Girl

Mainstream releases on Friday include the 9/11 war drama, "12 Strong," action thriller "Dan of Thieves," and the romantic drama, "Forever My Girl." 

Expect cinemas --- i.e.the multi and mega plex ones --- to be juggling on that date which is the weekend before Oscar. Specialty distributors naturally want their film on screen anticipating greatest awards excitement from Academy nominations. 

But the mainstream/specialty has screens tied up. The Globe wins for "Three Billboards" and "Lady Bird" pressure cinemas to keep them on screen for , perhaps, an Oscar nom surge. "I Tonya" (Margot Robbie) picked up four Globe wins, too. 

Similarly, "Insidious Last Key," "Greatest Showman," "Welcome to the Jungle," "Commuter," "Last Jedi," "Paddington 2," and "Proud Mary" have done in excess of ten million on MLK weekend.

Cinema operators and distributors will be making their best guesses as to what new troops to bring in and which ones to keep on screen. 

WV region-wise, when will "Shape of Water" finally come on screen --- it may have been delayed by having the same distributor --- Fox Searchlight --- as "Three Billboards."  "Phantom Thread" may have a similar dilemma as it comes from Focus, which has "Darkest Hour" racking up Best Actor wins for Gary Oldham as Winston Churchill. 

Interestingly, the underlying strength of these prestige pics begs to ask... what worthy non-blockbuster offerings have been missed and neglected due to the proliferation of tentpoles on their opening weekend.

Awards Contenders Still Stirring Mainstream Boxoffice Choices

Mainstream offerings such as "The House," "Rough Night," "Logan Lucky," "Kidnap," "Home Again," "Rings," "Geostorm," and "Monster Trucks" grossed in the $25-$35 million range and have been declared underperforming since most opened ultra wide on 2,500 plus screens or more. 

"Lady Bird" ($36), "Darkest Hour " ($35), "Three Billboards" ($28), "Shape of Water" ($26.5), and "Molly's Game" ($20) are all considered successful. 

Oh, and this does not consider the large budget franchises that have been labeled as underperforming based on budget to gross comparison. 

My thought --- instead of jumping on franchise sequel pitches, the studios could , perhaps, pay attention to more mid-budget, well acted, strong  non-sequel /non reimagining  potential stories lines. That's a hard call, particularly since a favorable blockbuster dice roll will likely generate more profit than three or four mid-range offerings.