By Michelle Graff

While there's been plenty of chatter about Blood Diamond, and it only seems to be increasing as the Dec. 8 release date looms, I think the diamond industry should keep in mind the success of another film that shares both the star (Leonardo DiCaprio) and studio (Warner Bros. Pictures) with that cinematic thorn in the diamond industry's side. That film, The Departed, could be a friend or foe, depending on how things play out.

Even with their big budgets, studios tend to put more behind a winning horse. Right now, that horse appears to be The Departed. The Martin Scorsese film is getting rave reviews and is now considered a favorite to get an Academy Awards Best Picture nomination. DiCaprio in particular has earned praise for his role in the Boston cops-and-mobsters thriller. And if the buzz (which can be fickle) holds, it looks as though his best shot at an acting Oscar (or at least a nomination) will be The Departed, not Blood Diamond.

It's true that the enormous success of The Departed and DiCaprio's performance could boost the pre-release push for Blood Diamond (and Warner Bros. has attached the latter film's trailer to The Departed). But when it comes to awards season, it could pull the spotlight away from the Sierra Leone-set movie.

Why does all of this matter to people who sell diamonds? It may not make a huge difference, but films with Oscar buzz and nominations have a longer shelf life. If Blood Diamond is a box office and awards season disappointment and overshadowed by its Warner Bros. counterpart, it could fade fast. That's not to say that it can't make an impression, but it won't be nearly as deep or as potentially damaging if the film doesn't have "legs" of the critic, box-office and awards-season variety. No matter how much hype a film gets before its release (Snakes on a Plane and The Black Dahlia are recent  examples) a poor performer drops faster than a lead balloon.

None of this speculation should keep retailers from making sure they're prepared for questions consumers may have about conflict diamonds, and they should see the film. But they may also want to root for Scorsese and The Departed to steal at least at some of its thunder.

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