Three categories – Foreign Language Film, Documentary Feature and Animated Feature – frequently have nominees that have received little or no U.S. theatrical play, and even sometimes no set playdate ahead. Things look better this year, but still not ideal for those who want to see all the nominees prior to the awards.
All five Animated Features have received wide release this time around. Over the last three years, four European-made productions competed, three of them distributed by the enterprising GKids, with only quiet Los Angeles qualifying runs for a week prior to the nominations. Only one of these – "Chico and Rita" last year – came back limited anywhere before the Oscars. (Sony Pictures Classics' "The Illusionist" from France did get a normal specialized release during the nomination period.)
Three of the five nominees for Foreign Language Film have yet to open. One major nominee, Sony Pictures Classic' "Amour" (one of only three films to receive nods for Best Picture, acting, Director, as well as Original Screenplay), has been playing for three weeks in New York and Los Angeles, with expansion to other major cities planned this month, and a further push beyond now that is has been elevated beyond just the Foreign Language category. By February 15 it should be open in most areas with a wide break for a subtitled film.
Magnolia's "A Royal Affair" opened in November and got as wide as 56 theaters before ending the bulk of its run, accumulating something under $700,000 so far, below expectations. Video on Demand will come in late March.
Of the other three, Chile's Gabriel Garcia Bernal-starrer "No," also from Sony Pictures Classics, opens in New York and Los Angeles on February 15, so at least moviegoers there will have a chance to see it before the awards, with a normal wider expansion coming in later weeks but after the awards.
Tribeca Films' "War Witch" from Canada opens on March 1 in New York (post-awards) at the Lincoln Plaza and Angelika, with other theatrical dates beyond that. However, it will be available on Video on Demand and iTunes starting two days after the ceremony.
Weinstein's "Kon-Tiki" is not set at the moment before the awards, but expects to finalize plans on its release next week. They had a major contender in the race – "Intouchables," a $400 million + worldwide grosser from France which had already grossed more than $10 million in the U.S. during its run. Though it opened last May, its DVD release had been held up with thoughts to reissue it based on nominations here and other possible categories. This snub ranks as a major surprise.
Four of the five Documentary Features have already had significant (for the genre) theatrical play. Sony Pictures Classics' "Searching for Sugar Man" is a sizeable art-house hit with a gross over $3 million. Its DVD release is on January 22.SPC also haa "The Gatekeepers" (from Israel) which had a one-week qualifying run in outer suburban Los Angeles County to qualify late last year, opening officially on February 1 in New York and Los Angeles, with at least San Francisco, Washington and Chicago on February 22.
Kino Lorber released the second Israeli co-produced film in this category, "Five Broken Cameras," to limited theatrical play last spring. It comes out on DVD next week as well as Netflix streaming while continuing on Hulu Plus. IFC's "How to Survive a Plague" has had both a theatrical and VOD run and is now streaming on Netflix. "Invisible War" from Cinedigm post-theatrical is out on DVD and also streaming at Netflix.
The end result is that most people with some effort can see some of the nominees (and perhaps both winners) in these two categories before February 24, only Academy members and those with press or festival connections will have had a real chance to see every feature film nominated by then.