Today's Special: The DVD Oscar Connection

With the stars coming out for the annual Academy Awards on Sunday, it’s no surprise that two of the movies nominated for Best Picture returned to the DVD sellers chart last week, while a third is still a sold renter. The Social Network, which was at No. 9 in the rental chart, has been on DVD for six weeks and is the oldest film on the chart. Same with Inception and Toy Story 3, which have been available for 11 and 15 weeks, respectively, but, despite dropping off the sales chart, reappeared at Nos. 10 and 9 last week.

Why? Because when we’re gearing up to watch Hollywood’s glitterati parade across the red carpet and cry over their statues, we want to remember why they’re on that stage. If we know and love the movies, it’s as close as we’re going to come to being up there with them.

127 Hours movie scene

James Franco stuggles to survive in 127 Hours.

So, having the Oscar nominees on DVD and Blu-ray prior to the show is a wonderful thing. We wish more studios would do it. Imagine if you could have a pre-Oscar party with the choice of featuring any of the films up for honors? Enjoying the pre-Oscar excitement while watching 127 Hours, The Fighter, The King’s Speech, Black Swan or True Grit over French onion dip and chips would be awesome, but we have to wait until March 1 for James Franco’s potentially award-winning performance and even longer for the others.

For Inception and Toy Story 3, the DVD releases were timed to match their summer-2010 theatrical releases and get the discs in store for the busy Christmas shopping season. Business as usual. But, for The Social Network and 127 Hours, there’s some Oscar strategizing going on. Here’s how we see it:

The Social Network movie scene

Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg set out on a search for financing in The Social Network.

The Social Network, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, was performing well in theaters when the Blu-ray and DVD were announced on Dec.15. That week, the film hit the $92 million domestic mark. It was on less than 300 screens on Dec. 15 and had been for the prior three weeks, down from its six weeks of wide release that kicked off with its premiere in October on nearly 2,800 screens. The announcement of The Social Network’s Jan. 11 Blu-ray and DVD release date came one day after the Golden Globe nominations were announced, where it picked up six nods. The Jan. 11 release was the perfect street date: five days after the Golden Globes were presented (the film won four, including Best Motion Picture Drama and a Best Director statue for David Fincher), giving it that extra push for award watchers. That it was the first major 2010 studio movie to be released in the new year didn’t hurt, either.  And with the announcement of the 2011 Academy Award nominations scheduled for Jan. 25, two weeks after street date, Sony had their cake and ate it too.

Toy Story 3 movie scene

The gang's all here in Toy Story 3.

127 Hours, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, danced a trickier tango. Released in theaters by the winning Fox Searchlight in November with the same kind of platform release strategy that turned Juno and Little Miss Sunshine hits, 127 Hours received rave reviews and high buzz, but never took off the way it should have. It’s hovering around the $17 million mark now. The film got three nominations for Golden Globes, including Franco for Best Actor, but didn’t bring home any statues. The studio’s home entertainment division held their breath until the Oscar nominations on Jan 25. When 127 Hours snagged six noms that morning, including ones for Best Picture and Best Actor, Fox snapped into action and immediately announced the film’s March 1 Blu-ray/DVD release date. Disc Dish received the press announcement about two hours — 127 minutes — after the nominations were announced. March 1 is a couple of days after Sunday’s Oscar broadcast. What makes it even sweeter is that star Franco is co-hosting with Anne Hathaway (whose Love and Other Drugs is coming to DVD and Blu-ray on March 1 too, also from Fox).

Whether 127 Hours wins for one of its many nominations, including Best Picture (we predict The Social Network will take it) and Franco as Best Actor (and we’re gonna say no to that one; it’s Colin Firth’s year) is almost moot. Either way, the film and the actor will be on viewers’ minds, making March 1 a good release day for the film’s DVD and Blu-ray — even though it would have been even better to have had the movie before Oscar had his celebration and Franco threw his super-secret “after-after-after-after-party.”

What do you think? Would you prefer to have all the movies available for home viewing prior to the awards?

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.