My phone was ringing over the weekend with inquiries from more than one member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences asking if I knew why The Hunger Games was nowhere to be found on the Acad’s official Samuel Goldwyn Theatre screening members schedule for March — or even all of April (“I told my husband I guess we’ll have to go to an 11 AM showing and get the senior discount”, one disappointed member told me). Normally the Academy is given top priority by studios and distributors — whether it’s awards season or not — and it would seem to be a given (even if it’s not obvious Oscar material) to screen such an anticipated film, particularly one directed by a previous Oscar nominee (Gary Ross) and with a cast and crew full of past nominees and winners. But my sources tell me the Academy’s committee in charge of booking their weekend screening series did indeed approach Lionsgate distribution contacts twice in order to secure a March screening of the film for their NY and LA membership and were turned down. They also asked the distrib again before the March 15th cutoff for April screenings and were again turned down. I am told BAFTA-LA, which also has a screening program, was turned down as well. A Lionsgate source tells me they definitely plan a full round of guild screenings as well as an Academy screening, but the calendar for March and April just didn’t work in the case of the latter. On the other hand, Lionsgate did book it this month for San Francisco, where the Academy also has a regular screening series for Northern California members, but the great majority obviously live in NY and LA.
Academy members are accustomed to seeing movies in their state-of-the-art Beverly Hills theater within a week or two of release, often opening weekend , and sometimes even before. In fact Lionsgate’s own upcoming horror film, The Cabin In The Woods, is scheduled for its official Los Angeles Acad screening on Saturday April 7th, a week before it opens in theaters on April 13th. Next weekend’s two wide releases, Mirror Mirror and Wrath Of The Titans, are scheduled for the LA screenings on Saturday and Sunday in addtion to 21 Jump Street and The Raid. The rest of April is fully booked in NY and LA, so the earliest date Hunger Games could be considered is the first week in May.
Instead of seeing the most buzzed-about movie last weekend, the LA and NY-based Academy members had a choice of box-office bombs Gone and Wanderlust in addition to Will Ferrell’s Spanish-language Casa De Mi Padre and Act Of Valor.