After the Oscars

I'm a big fan of Oscar season. It's a fun time of year to be a movie fan. There's Billy Crystal and his inside jokes and Joan Rivers and her red carpet "reporting." There are actresses in couture gowns and actors in expensive tuxes... oh and then there are those awards honoring the year's top films.
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I'm a big fan of Oscar season. It's a fun time of year to be a movie fan. There's Billy Crystal and his inside jokes and Joan Rivers and her red carpet "reporting." There are actresses in couture gowns and actors in expensive tuxes... oh and then there are those awards honoring the year's top films.

Even if you don't always agree with some of the Academy's choices (Marisa Tomei as Best Supporting Actress in 1992, Shakespeare in Love as Best Picture in 1998, or the virtual "sweep" by Chicago last year) you've got to appreciate the event that brings one of the best forms of entertainment to the forefront of conversation during the lingering days
of winter.

Fortunately, living in New York City affords me the luxury of a big-screen viewing experience for almost every Oscar nominee, including the top foreign films and live action and animated shorts. Though it's hard to beat a true theatrical experience in an old-fashioned movie palace like the Zeigfeld in midtown Manhattan or the latest stadium seating theater in the local multiplex, lately most of my movie watching has shifted away from the movie house into my house.

Last year, a buddy of mine got his hands on several "For Your Consideration" screener DVDs that had been sent to Academy members. I didn't ask him where he got them... I didn't need to know. All I cared about was being able to watch four of the five best-picture nominees, for free and without leaving my living room.

This year I played it straight and have only watched nominated films that were released early through official distribution. For one of those films, Lost in Translation, filmmakers took an experimental approach by releasing its DVD while the film was still in full theatrical distribution. I watched the DVD, enjoying it from the comfort of my sofa, with a clean floor under foot and the added value of "extras" such as documentaries and interviews from Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray thrown into the mix. I would have preferred watching the bright lights of Tokyo on a bigger screen (not a problem with your clients), but my surround system was just as good as or better than a movie theater, and there wasn't an annoying person talking or chomping on popcorn behind me.

From your standpoint as a home theater designer, the early release of Oscar-nominated DVDs also provides new customer service possibilities. For instance, why not surprise your best clients with special gift bags of Oscar-nominated DVDs on your next service visit. Granted, these folks may already have been the first to buy Whale Rider when it hit the Best Buy shelves, but they'll still appreciate your thoughtful gesture.

Second, these new DVDs can provide you with new demo material that your showroom probably has been sorely lacking. Isn't it finally time to retire The Fifth Element and Matrix from your store viewing list? Aren't you a little tired of the 7.1 Dolby scene from Star Wars: Episode I or the noisy Toy Story 2 crosswalk sequence? How about replacing them with the recently released Seabiscuit or Finding Nemo DVDs? Each movie provides the perfect mix of visual and aural qualities that will showcase your top theater's fullest potential. Plus, neither movie will require a flak jacket or earplugs to watch it. Isn't it about time that the movies you show demonstrate more than booming explosions and whizzing arrows? Think about how much your clientele will appreciate a little subtlety in the movies that you show them.

But for the customers who still prefer a cinematic experience that only the highest dBs can provide, be sure to mark your calendar for around September, when the Oscar-nominated Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and Master and Commander are released on DVD. Oscar season doesn't have to end in March. You can bring back its sequel at CEDIA time.

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