EXCLUSIVE: With an estimated $25 million boxoffice haul on only 1900 screens (see Nikki’s boxoffice report) in its opening weekend, Paramount’s gamble on the $30 million adult drama Flight looks like it is paying off. That’s certainly sweet news for star Denzel Washington and director Robert Zemeckis who didn’t take their usual hefty upfront fees in a bet on the quality of the movie alone. It also makes a nice memorium for Washington’s late agent Ed Limato to whom the film is dedicated in the end credits. Washington confirmed it was the final script (out of several that were offered at the time) that Limato hoped he would do. Shortly before he died Limato was again able to communicate that hope. The film’s dedication to Limato is a strong and poignant reminder of the bond between the star and his longtime agent.
In addition to boxoffice success Paramount is now moving aggressively with a big Oscar campaign for the film. The film got an enthusiastic response at an overflow screening for SAG and Academy members Saturday afternoon at the Writers Guild Theatre. It also drew well over 500 to its official Academy screening across the street at the Goldwyn later Saturday night with “sustained” applause at the end, according to one observer. Both were followed by Q&As with Washington, Zemeckis, scene-stealing co-star John Goodman and screenwriter John Gatins. The group also hit the official BAFTA screening yesterday and Zemeckis and Gatins even appeared at a public showing at Arclight Saturday night. Busy day for the awards push.
Certainly two-time winner Washington would seem to be a slam dunk for another acting nomination. Now that the film has opened Paramount campaign consultants tell me they are taking a “tonal shift” in some of the marketing by targeting a new 90-second “Academy” trailer specifically to awards voters. The piece highlights the ensemble cast in hopes of getting SAG nominating committee attention too. “We’re getting out our message early via actor-centric websites and areas where actors congregate online, including social media outlets. Waiting until after opening weekend allows us to highlight the critical raves which serve the dual purpose of continuing to engage movie goers along with capturing the attention of voters,” said a key Paramount awards strategist. The studio is also working on other Academy-centric trailers highlighting director, screenwriter and crafts teams that will be rolling out before Oscar voting kicks in starting December 17. Here is an exclusive look at the new Academy focused trailer: