HAMMOND: Fox's 'We Bought A Zoo' Becomes Final Awards Screener Sent To Oscar Voters

With only four days to go before Oscar nomination ballots are due back to PricewaterhouseCooper’s offices in downtown LA — and with many, if not most, already sent in — 20th Century Fox’s December 23 release We Bought A Zoo landed in Academy voters’ mailboxes only yesterday, becoming the final screener of the season to be sent out. Some voters I talked to were quite surprised to see it arrive so late as there would be little time left to actually view it even if one still had a ballot. Fox hasn’t made the Cameron Crowe family film an Oscar campaign priority, instead spending the bulk of those ad dollars on their Andy Serkis supporting bid for Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and their animated hopeful Rio. So was this screener entry an odd late-inning strategy to gain Oscar attention for Zoo? NOT! Actually, I am told that for unforseen technical reasons it was delayed. Stuff happens.

Nevertheless, since Deadline informed you who was first with their screeners this year (Summit’s A Better Life got the jump on everyone back on September 7, and so far it has paid off in a surprise SAG nod for star Demian Bichir), it’s only fitting we should tell you what movie you need to complete your 2011 collection. Of course it’s still possible another screener could be coming Academy members’ way if a surprise nominee pops up on January 24 — like Adam Sandler getting a best actor nom for Jack and Jill — but for now this looks to be it.

The perk of getting screeners is the thing a lot of newer Academy members covet most when they are invited to join the club. To that end, one Academy member started an unofficial website a couple of years ago designed to help AMPAS members keep track of their screeners. Called Where’s My Screener, the site is the brainchild of PR branch member Jasmine Madatian, who began keeping lists of DVDs when she first joined the Academy. Friends and fellow members would ask her for her lists, and that eventually grew into the site, where she keeps track by date, distributor and title of all the movies sent to the entire membership. “I have gotten lots of nice feedback from members, thanking me for helping them track down screeners they didn’t even know they were missing,” she says.

In perusing her site (she says traffic is up right now), it is interesting to note that The Weinstein Co’s Oscar frontrunner The Artist was (until Zoo entered the picture) the final screener sent to members very late in the game on December 29 — a specific strategy to get it to the top of the pile. Universal employed a similar strategy holding back Bridesmaids until December 13, when all those year-end accolades suddenly made this May release a must-see. Also of note on the list was the Christmas Eve arrival of Fox Searchlight’s troubled Kenneth Lonergan drama Margaret. It had barely been released by the studio (after being in legal limbo for five years) and has had no discernible campaign, but obviously it was a last-minute screener addition after it began showing up on several top 10 critics lists.

Madatian also offers key dates in the Oscar process at her site and even has a countdown clock ticking off the time until the Academy Awards go live on February 24. At press time it was 47 days, 4 hours, 4 minutes and 57 seconds to go until the big show. You gotta love it.

    1. Oh so what “brilliant” movie do you like? The Artist? Shame? You are so superior. Zoo is a fantastic movie that a lot of people are dismissing as a “family” film. IMO, it deals with tragedy and loss better than The Descendants and has a better lead performance too.

      And Fox’s money is better spent on this than a Serkis supporting bid. It’s visual effects, people. Come on. He’s just a template. When’s the last time Serkis has done anything noteworthy live, other than be replaced by a Gollum or an ape?

    2. Yeah and it goes to MARGARET. How could anyone like that film???? And Scorsese and Thelma came in to help edit it and it’s still a terd.

  1. I love the turtle from this movie….my heart hurts every time I think about the turtle and how….
    Good luck FOX!

  2. Haven’t seen this film, but based on the reviews I expected screeners from one or two of the entities wherein I have voting privileges.

    Equally lacking in support for a film is Fox with Rise of the Apes. I was so surprised at no screener and the lack of marketing for, at least, the well deserved visual effects (not yet, but soon) nominations alone. In fact, I left a message on Fox’s awards office answering machine so stating my surprise weeks ago about the lack of attention to Rise of the Planets Apes for visual effects.

    At the end of the day it is about investment versus reward, and in both cases the corporate masters made the financially correct decision.

    How depressing…but, it is what it is.

    1. You are either an idiot or I’ll-informed. Fox has spent a fortune on Apes awards campaign, they did perhaps the most innovative ad campaign I have ever seen for an awards push and countless screenings, sound shows, etc. what they haven’t had was access to Andy Serkis, who was working on Hobbit this whole time. I commend them for making such a concerted push with one arm tied behind their backs. This site and you should be commending them instead of criticizing them, would have been much easier and cheaper just to count the cash and take a pass.

      1. Really?

        Are you even a voting member of any organization? If so, how many Apes screeners or other information did you receive?

        And, access to Andy is not the issue in any way whatsoever.

        Do you work for Fox?

  3. Thisvwas surprisingly such a great and moving movie and I think they messed up because this deserves award recognition. So well written and one of Matt Damons best performances– one scene in particular caused many a sniffle. I loved it and didn’t expect to

  4. The “where’s my sceener, dude?” site is interesting. Did anyone notice that “martha marcy may marlene” appears to not have been sent out? Isn’t that odd, considering some of the others up for consideration?

    1. Cannot agree more. Why on earth send out Margaret and not the tour de force performances from Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes?!!?

  5. I also think Matt Damon’s performance in “We Bought a Zoo” is one of his best. He is an incredible actor who gets little recognition from the Academy, though I ‘was’ pleasantly surprised (as was he) when his work in “Invictus” was recognized (that South African accent alone was worth the nod).

    Perhaps some voting members saw the film over the Holidays and were impressed enough to vote for him–and/or the film–anyway. Is it possible for voting members to nominate a performance even if the actor’s work isn’t submitted for consideration by a Studio? I apologize if you’ve answered this before (and I missed it).

  6. Cannot understand the love for andy serkis on apes, Gollum YES but a nomination for this? Don’t get it at all.

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