How much does the prospect of a gold statue mean for a movie’s box-office treasure trove?
This year’s set of nominees for the best picture Oscar certainly doesn’t have the same number of all-out hits as last year. The 2013 roster boasted six films that crossed the $100-million mark in North America, plus one that came close (“Zero Dark Thirty,” with $96 million). The current crop has just four $100-million-plus-to-date movies.
It’s common to try to tease out which movie got the biggest bounce in ticket sales from the nominations. But many contenders were already at the ends of their theatrical runs by the time the Academy Awards nods were announced in January, making the numbers difficult to interpret.
“Gravity” has sold $13 million in tickets after the selections, or about 5% of its total from the U.S. and Canada since its October release. “American Hustle,” which launched closer to the Hollywood awards season, has grossed $40 million, or roughly 40% of its domestic take to-date, since it went up for 10 honors.
Smaller film fare possibly has more to gain from academy approval, attracting attention that a “Dallas Buyers Club” or “Nebraska” may not have otherwise received. About half of “Nebraska’s” modest $17-million gross has come post-nomination, and it’s been in theaters (albeit not that many of them) since November.
Studios typically try to capitalize on the awards buzz by releasing their films into more theaters. For example, Warner Bros. bumped up the theater count for the space thriller “Gravity” by nearly 800% after the announcement of its 10 nominations, according to data compiled by Rentrak.
“Captain Phillips,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Dallas Buyers Club” also received significant re-releases and expansions.
However, others including “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Philomena” and “Her” reduced their theater counts over the two weeks after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ nominees were announced.
But the meaningfulness of the Oscar “bump” may be overemphasized. Paul Dergarabedian, Rentrak’s senior media analyst, wrote in a blog post that contenders have enjoyed longer stays in theaters than they otherwise would have, even if several of the movies still saw their revenue drop off in the following weeks.
“All have gained a revitalized theatrical lease on life by virtue of the Oscar attention and are happily still adding dollars to their bottom line,” he said.
In other years, the Oscar windfall has been more pronounced. According to Rentrak, the Weinstein Co.'s 2012 winner “The Artist” took in more than 60% of its $45-million haul after it was nominated for best picture (which it won), but that barely compares with “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2009.
That movie ended up with $141 million in North American ticket sales -- most of it coming after “Millionaire” earned 10 Oscar nominations.
Here are more numbers from Rentrak on this year’s picks: