Muscat movie watchers won't go the extra mile (or two) to catch an Oscar-winner at nearby multiplex
Oman residents woke up in the early hours of Monday to travel to Hollywood's Dolby Theatre in Los Angles for the 86th Academy Awards, but most of them refuse to drive a few extra kilometres to catch an Oscar winning film at a nearby multiplex.
A glaring example is the Best Picture Oscar winner, 12 Years a Slave which did a very average business here while an American action film directed by Justin Lin and written by Chris Morgan — Fast & the Furious 6 — and American-Chinese superhero film featuring the Marvel Comics character Iron Man 3 turned out to be blockbusters and ran to packed houses at City Cinema, Muscat Grand Mall, Shatti, Buraimi, Sohar, Sur and Salalah for eight weeks.
Out of the nine films nominated for Best Picture, six have been released in Muscat so far before the Oscar awards were presented on Monday morning.
"Out of this, the true story of Captain (Richard) Phillips, a 3D science-fiction thriller Gravity and American black comedy film The Wolf of Wall Street did good business in Oman," said a senior official of Jawad Sultan Group of Companies that manages Oman Arab Cinema Company.
Captain Phillips did well also in City Cinema's Salalah featuring Tom Hanks who takes command of the MV Maersk Alabama ship with orders to sail through the Gulf of Aden to Mombasa, around the Horn of Africa.
"Since Salalah came into the limelight, Captain Philips did exceptionally well at the box office. It was the top grosser amongst the Oscar nominated films. In fact, collections for Captain Philips at City Cinema Shatti were at par with City Cinema Salalah," the official said.
However, American crime comedy-drama films like American Hustle failed to impress the Oman crowd. "It is all about money," says a Middle East based film distributor who distributes films in Muscat. "Just because a film has won awards, it does not mean it will be a hit in Oman," he says.
Another theatre owner adds that high-action movies and science fiction films do well because they are not dialogue-dependent.
"Even non-English speakers enjoy action films, so we can be sure of ticket sales. A case in point is Fast & Furious 6 and Iron Man 3. This is not the case with more serious, drama-rich movies," he says. "Films need to have a big actor or star to click here."
So the box-office bottom line in Oman remains a Bollywood flick and only a Hollywood film with a Bollywood flavour or one that can lure the family crowd finds favour on the big screen. The rest are all consumed on the small screen, from DVD to watching on your computer screen.
"This is the reason Bollywood movie Dhoom 3 was a blockbuster in Oman multiplexes," he opined.
A popular DVD lending library at Ruwi backs this view.
"The DVDs of 12 Years a Slave and Gravity have been booked every day this month. The demand is growing ever since Oscar nominations were announced," he said.
"Whenever a film is nominated for an Oscar or wins an Oscar, we witness a spurt in sales. Sometimes we have to bring more than one print," says another DVD lender at Seeb.
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