Pete Hammond

Lawsuits aside, can Lovelace become the latest high profile theatrical/VOD release to also get Oscar attention? I was thinking about that after attending the splashy Monday night Hollywood premiere of the Radius/TWC – Millennium film at the Egyptian. The movie has a name ensemble cast all delivering terrific performances, but two are true standouts. Amanda Seyfried as notorious Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace  and a de-glammed supporting turn by Sharon Stone as her mother could have strong appeal to the Academy’s actors branch. The film is not the type to gain traction in the Best Picture race but the actors might go for it if they see it. Radius (the VOD arm of The Weinstein Company) co-President Tom Quinn tells me the company quietly opened the film in Encino for a week in order to make sure it qualifies before the big simultaneous theatrical/VOD run starts Friday. However Academy rules, as I read them, seem to indicate the film would be eligible anyway so long as the VOD premiere does not precede the opening day of the theatrical run.

In any event with the Video On Demand component for increasingly high profile movies such as Lovelace  or the Ryan Gosling starrer, Only God Forgives which Radius opened day and date with VOD in July after playing in competition in Cannes, awards talk would seem to be a natural. The Academy’s rules only seem to punish a film that first plays VOD or other non-theatrical formats and arrives in theaters later. Nevertheless most distributors still play it safe and qualify these movies in traditional ways. With the Academy, you don’t want to take a chance. Quinn says they also did a week-long qualifying run for Only God Forgives in Encino and grossed $7000 without anyone really even knowing it was playing there.

Quinn has high hopes for the film which currently is at 60% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and thinks it is perfect for the VOD model. Major Oscar recognition could also help that model gain wider acceptance (of course exhibitors aren’t thrilled) and one day it’s inevitable, whether it’s this year or down the road.

Certainly Lovelace has a good pedigree, at least as far as Oscars are concerned, since one of its directors (along with Jeffrey Friedman) Rob Epstein is a two-time Oscar winner for Best Documentary (The Times Of Harvey Milk, Common Threads: Stories From The Quilt) and also sits on the Academy’s Board Of Governors.  Stone, previously nominated for Casino and working heavily against type, along with the ever-hot Seyfried. would seem to be eminently campaignable if Radius wants to go there. Both Stone and Seyfried appeared for a Q&A after an Academy member screening of the film on Sunday at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre. New Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs was among the premiere crowd on Monday. Of course Harvey Weinstein already has his plate full with numerous lead actress and supporting actress possibilities from his non-VOD movies this year including names like Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts (August Osage County), Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels’ The Butler), Judi Dench (Philomena), Nicole Kidman (Grace Of Monaco), Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station) and Naomie Harris (Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom). But if Lovelace  connects the way Quinn and his co-President Jason Janego hope who knows?  I would have said Kristin Scott Thomas’ evil mother turn in Only God Forgives might have figured into the race too if the film were a little more “Academy friendly” and not so completely savaged by critics.

To date the highest profile VOD success story Oscar-wise is thought to be 2011′s Margin Call from Roadside Attractions, which earned writer-director J.C. Chandor a Best Original Screenplay nomination. Roadside also quietly had qualified that film on the outskirts of L.A. and snuck it successfully into the race.  Also Roadside heavily campaigned the 2012 Richard Gere/Susan Sarandon film Arbitrage, a high profile theatrical/VOD release last Fall, but got no Oscar traction in a highly competitive year though Gere did receive a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a drama. Earlier this year multiple Oscar nominated director Terrence Malick became the latest big name to have a film go out with the model via Magnolia (a pioneering company in this regard) but don’t expect To The Wonder to go anywhere come Oscar time despite Best Picture and Director nominations for Malick’s The Tree Of Life a couple of years ago. Now even the major studios are getting their feet wet in a bigger way with Paramount Home Media Distribution partnering with Exclusive for a VOD/Theatrical launch on the September 6 release Adore starring 2012 Best Actress nominee Naomi Watts (The Impossible) and current Emmy nominee Robin Wright (House Of Cards). Speaking of Wright, the success of her Netflix show garnering 9 Emmy nominations was a huge boost in recognizing shows with alternative distribution models as far as the Emmy Awards are concerned.

Can the Oscars be far behind?

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.

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