January 21, 2011 / 2:32 AM / 9 years ago

Overlooked "127 Hours" hopes for Oscar attention

Cast member James Franco poses at the premiere of "127 Hours" at the Samuel Goldwyn theatre in Beverly Hills, California November 3, 2010. . REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Fox Searchlight is plotting a big return for “127 Hours,” a movie that many box office observers believe hasn’t received the love it deserves.

On January 28 — four days after Academy Award nominations are announced — the film will up its theater count to more than 600 locations. Currently, “127 Hours” is playing in only 76 theaters.

The move is designed to take advantage of expected attention from the Oscars. But while all indications are that James Franco will be nominated for best actor, additional nominations are not a given. Fox Searchlight is campaigning in the best picture and director categories, among others. The film scored one of the 10 best-picture nominations from the Producers Guild, but Danny Boyle was not among the Directors Guild’s five nominees.

The stranded-hiker drama is a tough sell given its subject matter: Franco’s character must amputate his own arm after it is crushed by a boulder. But attention from Oscar could help draw in audiences.

Opening on November 5 in four theaters, “127 Hours” has grossed $11.1 million to date. At its widest, the film played in 433 locations (that was in late November).

In relaunching the film, Fox Searchlight is borrowing a page from its past. “The Last King of Scotland,” opening in late September 2006, had grossed only $3.7 million by the time Forest Whitaker was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor. The weekend following Oscar nominations, Searchlight upped the film’s theater count from four to 497. Whitaker won the Oscar, and “King” went on to gross $17.5 million.

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