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Online Retailers Making the Oscar Connection

21 Feb, 2002 By: Jessica Wolf

Online video sites are taking advantage of the Academy Award nominations to promote already released and upcoming titles as well as related product; and online rankings of best selling titles are peppered with this year's nominees.

As of Feb 20, a week after the nomination announcements, Amazon.com's top selling DVD list ranked Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (widescreen) preorders at No. 1 (No. 11 for full-frame). Warner Home Video's Harry Potter, set for release May 28, was also No.1 on Amazon's top VHS seller list. The film has three Academy nominations, in the best art direction, best score and best costume design categories.

Best picture nominee Moulin Rouge, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, sat at No. 4 on Amazon's best-selling DVD list, and No. 7 for VHS. Buena Vista Home Entertainment's Bridget Jones's Diary, with a best actress nod for Renee Zellweger, was the No. 3 best selling cassette for the site.

Online presales are a valuable marketing tool for studios to gauge consumer interest. Preorders for some Academy nominees were current Amazon DVD best sellers, like No. 5, DreamWorks Home Entertainment's A.I. Artificial Intelligence (street March 5), up for best visual effects and best score. With a best actor nomination for Denzel Washington and best supporting actor for Ethan Hawke, Warner's Training Day, due March 19, was Amazon's No. 8 DVD bestseller. Interest in the top-nominated film, New Line's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, was also high on the site, with National Geographic: Behind Lord of the Rings ranked No. 9 on the DVD best-seller list, and a boxed set of the trilogy topping the best selling book list on the site.

Best Buy.com has a special Academy Awards section with links built in to directors and actors names. Click on a name and viewers get a filmography featuring that particular star or director, many of those available on video and selling at discount prices.

DVD seller DVDexpress.com also has an Oscar section, featuring titles already available for sale and past titles related to current nominees. DVDexpress also listed Harry Potter as it's No. 1 preorder last week, with A.I. No. 2 and Training Day No. 3.

Included on the site's listing of "Top 20 DVDs of 2001" were two of this year's Academy hopefuls. DreamWorks' Shrek, up for best animated film and best adapted screenplay, was listed as the No. 1 DVD of 2001, and Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment's Memento, with two Oscar nominations this year -- best editing, best original screenplay -- was No. 19.

On the online rental side, nominee Shrek was listed as one of the Netflix.com's member favorites last week. The online rentailer has also organized extensive Academy Awards pages promoting current and past winners and nominees in some of the top categories with a lighthearted touch.

A subhead titled "The (Oscar) Gods Must be Crazy" highlights past best supporting actor nominees that didn't walk home with the statue like Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris and Greg Kinnear.

In the best picture category, Netflix has titles available for rent sorted into fun groupings like "Rough and Tumble," which features past Oscar winners and nominees with action themes, like The French Connection and The Godfather: Part III. Netflix's "Oscar Loves to Laugh" section leads renters to Academy Award-winning comedies like Shakespeare In Love and Tootsie. Titles under the site's "Fact-based Favorites" category include Erin Brockovich, Norma Rae and Braveheart.

Netflix's Academy Award section also highlights titles that have received Academy nominations or awards in more than one category.

According to Video Store Magazine research Moulin Rouge saw a boost in rentals the week following the Academy Award announcements. The musical featuring best actress nominee Nicole Kidman garnered $2.84 million in combined VHS and DVD rental revenue for the week ending Feb. 17, $51,000 more than its $2.33 million the previous week. The Moulin Rouge DVD came it at No. 9 on VideoScan charts for the week ending Feb. 10. Two other nominees are still ranked on Video Store Magazine's top rental charts. Best adapted screenplay nominee Ghost World earned $2.92 million in video revenue in its second week of release, bringing the funky comedy's video total of $6.1 million just shy of its theatrical take ($6.2 million). And the Ghost World DVD debuted on VideoScan's to 25 sellers chart at No. 17.

After 75 days in release, Pearl Harbor has held strong in rentals, sitting at No. 28 on Video Store Magazine's top 50, with nearly $85 million in total combined video revenue and the Pearl Harbor DVD is still among VideoScan's top 25 sellers at No. 8 for the week ending Feb. 10. The historical drama was nominated for best sound, best sound effects editing, best visual effects and best original song.

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