Gary Thompson: 'Silver Linings' strikes Oscar gold

Posted: January 11, 2013

"LINCOLN" TALLIED the most Oscar nominations Thursday, but the biggest winner may have been Philadelphia's own "Silver Lining Playbook."

The low-profile movie picked up eight Oscar nominations - fewer than the 12 for "Lincoln" - but "SLP" is the only movie to be nominated in all of the most important categories - best picture, best director (David O. Russell), best actor (Bradley Cooper), best actress (Jennifer Lawrence), best supporting actress (Jacki Weaver) and best supporting actor (Robert De Niro). Russell also picked up a nod for best adapted screenplay (from Matthew Quick's novel).

"SLP" - the comedy starring Cooper as a troubled man whose relationships (with father De Niro and girlfriend Lawrence) are tied to the destiny of the Eagles - suddenly looms as the most viable Oscar candidate for the Weinstein Co.

And Weinstein happens to be the Hollywood outfit most adept at winning Oscars.

Starting now, "SLP" will benefit from the Academy Award playbook perfected at Weinstein. The movie (shot in and around Philadelphia) will roll out behind a big new ad/media push onto 3,000 screens on Jan. 18, capitalizing on the Oscar buzz.

This is virtually the same strategy that Weinstein used the past two years to win Oscars for "The King's Speech" and "The Artist" - modest holiday-season releases against bigger commercial competition, then an accelerated campaign after the bigger titles have played themselves out.

"SLP" bided its time while "Lincoln," "The Hobbit" and "Les Miserables" slugged it out at the box office.

"We started out in 10 cities and then we expanded, but not real wide. Only a couple hundred theaters," said Erik Lomis, head of distribution at TWC. "We wanted to build word-of-mouth. Of course, we'd tested the movie and it played through the roof. We knew we had an audience."

The trick was finding a way to maximize that audience. "SLP" is not an easy movie to market - equal parts romantic comedy, sports movie, family drama, with main characters who are bipolar and manic.

"It's a tricky thing to put into 30 seconds," said Lomis, referring to TV spots.

Less tricky now.

"Now the film has gotten eight Academy Award [nominations] and a Golden Globe nomination. Those kinds of things really help validate the movie and the strategy that we've employed. Nobody does it better than Harvey Weinstein when it comes to those kinds of things," said Lomis, who's pulling for the movie because it's a Weinstein property and because he grew up in Plymouth Meeting and Center City.

The movie expands slightly this week to 810 screens in 55 cities, then to 3,000 screens and 200 cities on the Jan. 18.

"Next week is when we're going to open the floodgates," he said. He added that Cooper and Lawrence, busy until recently with "Hangover" and "Hunger Games" sequels respectively, are available to plug the movie. Lawrence hosts "SNL" on Jan. 19.

Remember how you couldn't get away from Colin Firth a few years ago?

It paid off. Firth won best actor and "The King's Speech" won best picture on its way to topping $100 million.

Is that kind of success in the cards for "Playbook?"

"Every picture is unique," Lomis said. "Right now, we're at $40 million, and that's right around where we'll be when the movie goes wide Jan. 18. 'The King's Speech' ended at $140 million. That would be fantastic. I don't know if we'll get there, but it will not be from lack of trying."


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