Globes put Focus on "Atonement" producer

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Two years after “Brokeback Mountain” powered Focus Features to the top of the heap for the Golden Globe nominees, the specialty studio is back in familiar territory.

(L-R) Cast members James McAvoy (L) and Keira Knightley (C) with director Joe Wright arrive for the premiere of the film "Atonement" at the IFC Center in New York December 3, 2007. REUTERS/Rahav Segev

Focus and Paramount Vantage scored 11 nominations each Thursday. But Focus also could boast the dominant film, “Atonement,” with its seven nominations. In addition, it fielded “Eastern Promises” (three) and “Lust, Caution” (one). And that’s not counting Focus’ stake in Paramount Vantage’s “Into the Wild,” for which the company is handling non-English international rights.

But then, who’s counting?

“I’m back from Taipei and I’m on such a high,” said Focus Features CEO James Schamus, who co-wrote and executive produced Ang Lee’s “Lust,” which just won seven Golden Horse awards in the director’s homeland.

Focus came out of the awards gate slowly this year, gaining little traction with such hopefuls as “Evening,” “Reservation Road” and “Talk to Me.” But a careful rollout strategy for “Atonement” and a late surge for the dark-horse thriller “Eastern Promises” as well as “Lust” have put it in a pole position. “Today is a massive sweep,” Schamus said.

The nominations also restore the company to its awards luster of two years ago, when it scored 12 Golden Globe nominations, including seven for “Brokeback Mountain” and two for “Pride & Prejudice,” from “Atonement” director Joe Wright.

“It’s a mistake to believe any one company can produce an awards-worthy lineup,” Schamus said. “It’s the company you keep -- great directors and great producers.”

But the company also knows that a long race lies ahead of the January 13 Globes and the February 24 Oscars: Two years ago “Brokeback” was an early favorite for the best picture Oscar -- it won best drama at the Globes -- but it lost the big one to “Crash” at the Oscars.

“Atonement,” which opened in limited release December 7, is now positioned to ride a Globes rush at the box office. “Lust,” possibly hampered by its NC-17 rating, has grossed just $4.3 million domestically to date, but Schamus noted the rating won’t pose any problem for its January DVD release. And “Promises” producer Paul Webster said that despite that film’s $17 million gross since it bowed November 4, the recognition will give the film “a new lease on life.”

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter