The Weinstein Company is determined to make 'Nine' the next 'Chicago,' even if it kills them. And it just might.

The studio remains determined to keep the adaptation of the Broadway musical, which has generated a lot of awards buzz but little box office, on as many screens as possible. Reuters reported yesterday that the company plans to keep the film on 1,412 screens this weekend, the same number as last weekend, in the hope that word of mouth will spread. The gamble on 'Nine,' which cost a reported $64 million to make (and untold millions more in awards-season publicity and advertising) comes at a time when the studio's financial future is in doubt, as Harvey and Bob Weinstein scramble to put together new funding to stave off creditors, who await repayment of $500 million worth of studio debt. The Weinstein Company is determined to make 'Nine' the next 'Chicago,' even if it kills them. And it just might.

The studio remains determined to keep the adaptation of the Broadway musical, which has generated a lot of awards buzz but little box office, on as many screens as possible. Reuters reported yesterday that the company plans to keep the film on 1,412 screens this weekend, the same number as last weekend, in the hope that word of mouth will spread. The gamble on 'Nine,' which cost a reported $64 million to make (and untold millions more in awards-season publicity and advertising) comes at a time when the studio's financial future is in doubt, as Harvey and Bob Weinstein scramble to put together new funding to stave off creditors, who await repayment of $500 million worth of studio debt.

Before it opened in limited release on Dec. 18, 'Nine' earned five Golden Globe nominations. The film boasts an all-star cast that features several past Oscar-winners, including Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, and Marion Cotillard, But the film's wide release on Dec. 25 (amid a crowded marketplace that also included 'Avatar' and 'Sherlock Holmes') resulted in a disappointing eighth-place finish and a weekend gross of just $5.5 million.

Weinstein executive David Glasser insisted to Reuters that the film was playing well in larger cities, representing 890 of its current screens. "We are going to hold our theaters as planned. The movie is working," he said.

The Weinsteins are depending on awards-season buzz to give the movie legs at the box office. (Remember, the Weinsteins' 'Chicago,' released when they were running Miramax, didn't become a big hit until it started filling its trophy case.) But awards buzz depends on landing some Oscar nominations in February, and if the movie sinks in theaters before then, its poor box office could hurt its Oscar chances.

Worse for the Weinsteins, it could hurt their bottom line at a time when they desperately need a hit. According to the New York Post, the brothers are currently seeking new investors to finance future film productions and purchases. Though the Weinsteins had a big hit earlier this year with 'Inglourious Basterds' (which has grossed $300 million worldwide), they have to share a large chunk of the profits with distributor Universal. Similarly, if 'Nine' does become a worldwide hit, the Weinsteins won't see much of that profit, having offset their risk by selling the foreign distribution rights for $50 million. The Weinsteins were counting on 'Nine' to be a big domestic hit in order to generate operating cash that would fund future movies; without that cash, they'll be dependent on whatever new investors they can find to help pay the company's $500 million in debt and to help finance the four to six new movies a year they hope to release.

Still, if anyone can turn a sleeper film into Oscar gold -- and then into box-office gold -- it's the Weinsteins. This year, the expert awards campaigners already have more Golden Globe nominations than any other studio. If they can just hold on to the screens for 'Nine' (and 'The Road,' and 'A Single Man'), maybe Oscar voters will follow suit.