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'SCHINDLER'S' LARGER LIST PAYS OFF FILM ADDS THEATERS, THEN WINS BIG

By Published on .

For savvy movie marketers seeking to capitalize on Academy Award wins, timing is everything.

Universal Pictures, for example, made the bold move of broadening distribution for Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List" by more than 50%, to 1,246 movie screens, on March 18. That was the weekend before the movie captured seven statuettes, including the most prestigious Best Picture and Best Director nods, at the March 21 Academy Awards.

Had Mr. Spielberg's b&w Holocaust drama lost the major awards, the strategy might have stunted "Schindler's List's" previously steady box office growth.

Instead, the studio made sure the film was widely, immediately available to anyone whose curiosity was piqued by the Oscars-ABC estimates 78 million viewers saw at least some of the 3 hour-plus Academy Awards broadcast.

On the day after the Academy Awards, ticket sales for "Schindler's List" came in at about $885,000, an increase of more than 150% from the previous Tuesday.

Total domestic ticket sales for "Schindler's List" were $59.8 million through Academy Awards eve, March 20.

To sway undecided moviegoers, all of Universal's newspaper and TV advertising for "Schindler's List" by March 22 touted the movie's multiple award wins. Universal creates advertising in-house, with DDB Needham Worldwide, Los Angeles, handling media planning and placement.

Universal's sister MCA division, MCA/Universal Home Video, had no such qualms about promoting Mr. Spielberg's other Academy Award-winning project, "Jurassic Park."

The special effects-laden film of last summer is the biggest movie of all time, with $345 million in ticket sales. But more than nine months after its opening, consumers' once frenzied excitement over the dinosaur epic has faded. So the home video unit seized upon "Jurassic Park's" three Oscars as an opportunity to announce it will release the movie on videocassette Oct. 4 at $24.98, timed and priced for holiday sales.

Live Home Video's release of the sensual art film, "The Piano," on videocassette is more imminent.

Live had already set "The Piano's" video release for May 25 before the film won three Academy Awards, for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay. But the awards strengthened Live's resolve not to advertise the rental-price title directly to consumers.

Instead, the video marketer is counting on the movie's extended run in theaters and Academy Awards-oriented advertising from theatrical distributor Miramax Films Corp. to keep "The Piano" top-of-mind.

Like Universal, Miramax immediately began tagging advertising for "The Piano" with the movie's Oscar status. Miramax, a unit of Walt Disney Co., creates ads in-house. Disney agency Western International Media, Los Angeles, handles placement.

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