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6 OSCARS ARE WORTH AN EXTRA $20 MILLION

Oscar fever should keep "Forrest Gump" in theaters beyond its scheduled home video release in a few weeks and is sparking interest in an otherwise unnoticed "Blue Sky."

"Forrest Gump," which took six Academy Awards, including best picture and best actor for Tom Hanks, could add an additional $10 million to $20 million in theatrical revenues by the time it is released on video April 28, analysts said. That comes on top of the more than $300 million the Paramount Pictures movie has grossed since its July 6 release.Theatrical showings of "Forrest Gump" are expected to extend beyond the cassette's release date, said Barry London, vice chairman of Paramount's motion picture unit. London said the company has had no set distribution strategy for the film.

"The strategy for distribution is an ongoing process," London said. "You react to what the reality starts to become."

"Forrest Gump," which recounts several decades of U.S. history through the eyes of a Southern simpleton, is the fourth biggest box-office draw on record, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc., a Los Angeles entertainment research firm. The movie is $5 million behind No. 3 "Star Wars," the 1977 blockbuster.

"Forrest Gump" was taken off screens for about one month earlier this year but returned once it received 13 Oscar nominations. Now it is playing at 1,119 screens, down from its September peak of 2,365 but up slightly in recent weeks, Paramount officials said.

A few pictures have had simultaneous video and theatrical releases, including last year's Walt Disney Pictures release "The Lion King."

Meanwhile, Jessica Lange's best actress Oscar for "Blue Sky" already is boosting theatrical interest for the Orion Pictures Corp. film. Orion expects to increase the number of screens showing the film from about 20 nationwide to 50 in at least 15 major cities, said spokeswoman Gail Block.

"As we speak now, our salespeople are booking theaters," she said.

Lange portrayed a volatile military wife in the film, which sat on Orion's shelves for three years while the company tried to recuperate from a 1991 bankruptcy filing.

Orion came out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1992. Despite its financial troubles, the studio had a series of Oscar victories, including best picture winners "Silence of the Lambs," "Dances With Wolves," "Platoon" and "Amadeus."

"Blue Sky" is the last of 10 Orion films that sat in vaults awaiting release. Orion's crippled distribution system is partly blamed for limited interest in the film, which has grossed $2.5 million since its September release.

Orion also may have simultaneous theatrical-cassette availability since it is scheduled to hit video stores April 18, Block said.

Controlled by billionaire John Kluge's Metromedia Co., Orion is set to be merged with three other entities - Metromedia International Telecommunications Inc., MCEG Sterling Inc. and the Actava Group Inc. Analysts said Lange's Oscar victory could help send the new entertainment unit off on the right foot.

"I think Orion will see better days, and this bodes well for their future and partnership," said Dave Davis of Paul Kagan Associates in Los Angeles.