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Saturday , February 23 , 2013
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Box-office boo for Oscar films

Silver Linings Playbook + Lincoln + Zero Dark Thirty = 4

A Good Day To Die Hard = 4

[Daily shows at INOX Forum]

The Silver Linings Playbook + Zero Dark Thirty = 3

A Good Day To Die Hard = 5 [Daily shows at Fame (South City) where Lincoln has come, flopped and gone]

Calcuttans may wake up at the crack of dawn on Monday to travel to Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre for the 85th Academy Awards, but they refuse to go an extra mile to catch an Oscar-nominated film at a nearby multiplex.

Proof: A Good Day To Die Hard, the fifth part in the Bruce Willis action franchise, has more shows at the plexes than Silver Linings Playbook, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty put together! And why’s Die Hard 5 the odd one out? Surprise, surprise, it is the only film of the four not in the race for a Best Picture Award at the Oscars.

“Calcutta gives a cold shoulder to Oscar-nominated films at the theatres. That’s been a trend for years now and that has been the case even this season,” admits an official of Fame Cinemas.

Of the nine films nominated for Best Picture, six have released in Calcutta in the run-up to the biggest awards in the movie business. For all but one — more on that later — to find few or no takers.

The box-office bottomline? Calcutta remains a Bollywood city where only a Holly film with a Bolly flavour (read, dhishum dhishum) or one that can lure the family crowd (read the Harry Potter school) finds favour on the big screen. The rest are all consumed on the small screen, from DVD to downloads.

“There is a larger audience in Calcutta for Holly films that cut across age groups and have some kind of recall and brand value, rather than Oscar films, most of which aren’t mainstream,” says Mahendra Soni of Shree Venkatesh Films that has distributed Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook.

Life of Pi bucked the city’s Oscar trend by ticking all of Soni’s boxes. Nominated for 11 Oscars, Ang Lee’s emotional tale of a youngster stranded on a boat with a Royal Bengal Tiger in the middle of the Pacific Ocean ran for two-and-a-half months in Calcutta, notching up in excess of Rs 4 crore in gross collections.

“That it was a special-effects laden film made it imperative that Life of Pi had to be watched in the theatre (and not at home). Bengal was one of the top six markets for us,” says an official of Fox-Star Studios, the producer-distributor of Pi.

Soni puts down the city’s cold shoulder to Oscar films to most of them releasing late here. “By then, most movie buffs would have already watched it on DVD or downloaded it online.”

Prince Dewan of Raja Electronics, a popular DVD lending library, backs this view. “The DVDs of Argo and Flight (Best Actor nomination for Denzel Washington) and The Master (Best Actor nomination for Joaquin Phoenix) have been booked every day this month. The demand is growing as the Oscar ceremony draws near,” says Dewan.

“Whenever a film is nominated for an Oscar or wins a trophy, we witness a spurt in sales,” says Gautam Jatia of Starmark.

As DVD buys and borrowings rise, ticket sales for “Oscar-type” Hollywood films show no signs of picking up.

Daniel Day-Lewis may have swept every Best Actor trophy this season, but Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln with 12 nominations has barely limped into its second week at INOX (Forum) and been knocked out of Fame (South City) after the first week. The Impossible — for which Naomi Watts has a Best Actress nomination — and Best Picture nominee Les Miserables, for which Anne Hathaway is tipped to win Best Supporting Actress, have both suffered the Oscar jinx here.

Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, may have become a talking point worldwide — as much for Jessica Chastain’s Best Actress-worthy act as for the controversial torture scenes — but in Calcutta it’s a flop show.

The first Oscar 2013 nominated film to make it to city screens was Argo in October last year. Word-of-mouth publicity ensured that the Ben Affleck-directed thriller ran for three weeks. “Argo did relatively well, but the number of shows was limited,” says a plex official.

Best Picture nominees like Django Unchained, Amour or Beasts of the Southern Wild may not have made it to our screens yet, but many fans have already done the dirty, courtesy the pirated DVDs readily available on the pavements from Gariahat to New Market. “I bought BluRay DVDs of all the Best Picture nominees for just Rs 40 each more than a month ago. Why go to a multiplex several weeks after that?” asks Holly addict Sourav Banerjee.

For Calcutta and Oscar, it’s now a vicious circle. With buying, borrowing or downloading the popular route, the theatres go empty when a release finally happens. And with the plex pie for such movies refusing to grow, the studios choose to focus on Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. “Lesser number of multiplex screens also means that Calcutta isn’t a lucrative enough market,” says Soni.

Why do you think award-winning English films flop at the Calcutta box office? Tell