Close Close

Financial Planning > UHNW Client Services > Family Office News

Moore’s Oscar win puts Alzheimer’s film in spotlight

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

(Bloomberg) — When Julianne Moore stepped up to the podium to collect her best-actress Oscar, it was for a film few outside of Hollywood have seen.

The actress with trademark red hair won the Academy Award for her performance in “Still Alice,” as a woman struggling to cope with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The movie has taken in just $8 million at the North American box office, less than any film that’s produced a best actress since Jessica Lange won for “Blue Sky” in 1995, according to Rentrak Corp. The 54-year-old actress used her acceptance speech to highlight the plight of Alzheimer’s patients.

See also: Dementia cinema: 4 upcoming productions.

“So many people with this disease feel isolated and marginalized,” Moore said. “And one of the wonderful things about movies is they make us feel seen and not alone.”

Moore not only won, she was the odds-on favorite going into Sunday night’s event. How she and distributor Sony Pictures Classics got there, against Reese Witherspoon, Rosamund Pike, Felicity Jones and Marion Cotillard, shines a light on the strategies film studios use to identify potential winners — and profit from their success.

“Still Alice” stands to benefit more than any other film from its Oscar-night win, according to Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst with Rentrak.

Oscars journey

The trip to the Oscars started in September, when “Still Alice” was screened at the Toronto Film Festival. Moore plays Alice Howland, a linguistics professor with three grown children who starts to forget words and is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the beginning of a frightening and heartbreaking struggle.

Her performance immediately generated speculation in the trade press that the movie could deliver a best-actress Oscar for any distributor that snapped it up. That’s just what Sony Pictures Classics did.

The label had worked with Fort Bragg, North Carolina-born Moore before, as well as directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, who made 2006’s “Quinceanera.”

“The minute we saw the film — it was the first screening in Toronto — we literally felt the movie had to be ours,” Sony Pictures Classics co-President Michael Barker said in an interview. “We literally felt that Julianne Moore had a shot at the Oscar.”

Stars align

A lot went the producers’ way. As the Hollywood Reporter pointed out, the best-actress field at that point had only one “slam-dunk contender” in Witherspoon, who played a woman on a journey of self-discovery in “Wild.”

And Oscar voters have a track record of recognizing actors who have taken on the challenge of playing characters with mental or physical disabilities, as evidenced by movies from “Children of a Lesser God” to “Rain Man,” “Forrest Gump” and “My Left Foot.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has also rewarded actors who have had near-misses in the past. Moore fit the bill, with four nominations without victory for best actress or supporting actress — including in 2003, when she was a finalist in both categories for “The Hours” and “Far From Heaven.”

‘Her time’

“We always felt that Julianne Moore, her time would come when she would win the Oscar,” Barker said. “We just felt it was one of those moments.”

To be eligible, the film had to be released commercially in 2014. “Still Alice” would be up against the year-end rush of prestige films, so studio decided to delay a broad release and opted for a one-week qualifying run in December.

It opened in six cities on Jan. 16, the day after Moore was nominated for the Oscar, going from 12 theaters to 84 to more than 500. The film expanded by 265 this past weekend, reaching 765 locations and adding $2.2 million to its total.

Release plan

“All the Oscar buzz is exposing this little film to millions,” said Jeff Gomez, chief executive officer of Starlight Runner Entertainment, a movie marketing consulting firm.

“Blue Sky,” released by Orion Pictures in September 1994, starred Lange as a woman who becomes involved in a nuclear coverup at a military base. The film grossed $3.4 million in theaters, including about $2.7 million prior to the March 27, 1995, Academy Awards ceremony, according to Rentrak.

“Still Alice” garnered 90 percent positive reviews from critics tracked by The film cost an estimated $5 million to make, according to researcher Box Office Mojo. That doesn’t include marketing costs or the cost of the awards marketing campaign.

‘Ridiculously overlooked’

Besides the more than 6,000 DVD mailers, press junkets, lunches and dinners organized by Oscar campaigners, Sony held screenings to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association, raising awareness of the disease and the film. The studio needed to do little else, said Tom O’Neil, founder of, a website that tracks entertainment awards.

“She was so ridiculously overlooked,” O’Neil said. The academy was “going to nominate her no matter what.”

Moore herself described how different the experience has been this time around. She sat at the head table at a star-studded, flesh-pressing lunch at Manhattan’s Le Cirque following her Golden Globes win in January. Another lunch, campaigning a few years earlier for “The Hours,” was sparsely attended, Moore told the New York Observer in an interview.

See also: PBS to Air Alzheimer’s Documentary.

Even before Toronto, her husband saw the potential, Moore recalled backstage after winning the Oscar. He accompanied her to see the film for the first time she saw the final cut, she said.

“When we walked out of there he said, ‘You are going to win an Oscar,’” Moore said Sunday night.

—With assistance from Christopher Palmeri in Los Angeles.


© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.