Oscar contenders face delayed VHS releases

How can you tell where the movie studios are placing their Oscar hopes? Ask them to divulge their video calendar. Companies are always loath to report release dates for upcoming videos more than a few months in advance, lest the competition get the drop on them. But as the buzz builds prior to the announcement of Academy Award nominations on Feb. 10, distributors become doubly cagey. While sidestepping the question of when renters might see Sylvester Stallone’s vigorously touted performance in Miramax’s Cop Land, publicist Martin Blythe explained the game: ”If it does win, you don’t want to go out too late. If there’s nothing, then you don’t want to have waited around.” Ulee’s Gold, which came to theaters in June, would be in stores already if it were a mediocrity, but with a Best Actor nom possible for Peter Fonda, who knows when it’ll appear? Not MGM, its video distributor. Warner Bros., super hush-hush about its early awards leader L.A. Confidential, declined not only to announce what the industry calls its street date but even to give a date for announcing the street date. And asked about Boogie Nights, a New Line publicist makes no bones: ”We’re waiting to see if it’s nominated.”