- Oscar nominations can give a movie a box-office boost, but it’s harder to come by in the age of streaming and online video.
- Paul Dergarabedian, the Comscore senior media analyst, told Business Insider that it depends on whether a movie still has an “untapped audience.”
- “American Beauty” experienced one of the biggest Oscar bumps in recent memory, Dergarabedian said, earning 43% of its domestic box office after nominations were announced.
- There’s no clear example this year of a movie experiencing anything close to what “American Beauty” did, but recent movies like “Green Book” and “Room” show that it’s still possible.
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The Oscars are right around the corner, and the nominated movies will be vying for the most coveted trophies in Hollywood. But there’s another prize that movie studios likely hope for during Oscar season: box-office gold.
As best-picture contenders expand into more theaters ahead of the big night, the relationship between Oscar recognition and box-office success is a tricky one.
“Oscar nominations can supercharge a movie’s prospects, but it depends on its release in the marketplace,” Paul Dergarabedian, the Comscore senior media analyst, told Business Insider.
One of the best examples is a 20-year-old drama with a connection to this year’s best-picture frontrunner, “1917,” Dergarabedian said.
1999’s “American Beauty,” from “1917” director Sam Mendes, won best picture at the 2000 Oscar ceremony. Leading up to its major victories, which also included best director (Mendes), the movie received one of the most significant Oscar bumps in recent memory.
‘American Beauty’ surged at the box office after gaining major Oscar nominations
“American Beauty” — which opened in limited release in September, 1999 and received a wide release that October — had earned $75 million domestically by the time Oscar nominations were announced on February 15, 2000. It wasn’t bad for a movie made on a $15 million budget (before inflation), but it was only in seven theaters the week before the announcement and had all but stalled.
Then it expanded to 1,287 theaters the weekend of February 18 and grossed another $5.6 million over that weekend, its 24th in theaters, according to Comscore. It suddenly jumped from 54th in the box-office rankings back into the top 10. It went on to make $130 million in North America, 43% of which came after nominations were announced.
“There’s no downside to a best-picture nomination,” Dergarabedian said. “[‘American Beauty’] had played out by the end of 1999 and was hovering in a handful of theaters, and then boom.”
20 years later, significant Oscar bumps are harder to find, but not out of the question
The post-nominations success of “American Beauty” is significant in part because it got a wide release to theaters in October, four months before its Oscars-fueled surge at the box office, and was already relatively successful during its original theatrical run.
20 years later, there’s no guarantee that it would benefit so much financially from Oscar nominations.
This year, there’s not a clear example of a movie experiencing anything close to what “American Beauty” did.
“1917” is finding success, but it was released right in the thick of awards season, so any “bump” directly related to Oscars buzz is difficult to gauge. The same can be said for many nominated movies that are released late in the year to seemingly better resonate with Oscar voters.
A significant Oscars box-office bump depends on how long a movie has been in theaters and “how much untapped audience” there still is for a nominated movie, according to Dergarabedian. In the age of streaming and online video, that’s rare — but not totally unheard of.
The best-picture winner “Green Book” and 2015’s “Room,” a best-picture nominee, are two prime examples of movies that benefited from Oscars buzz. The former hit theaters in November, but still made 50% of its $85 million domestic box office after nominations were announced two months later, according to Comscore.
Similarly, “Room” made 65% of its box office after getting major nominations. In both cases, the studios — Universal and A24, respectively — gave them a substantial theatrical expansion after nominations were announced.
“‘Room’ is a textbook example of a movie that might have languished in obscurity without the wave of critical acclaim and awards buzz,” Dergarabedian said.
Each best-picture nominee’s domestic box-office percentage after the nominations were announced are below, according to Comscore, along with their original release date (nominations were announced on January 13):
- “1917” — 62% (released December 25)
- “Ford v Ferrari” — 3% (November 15)
- “Jojo Rabbit” — 15% (October 18)
- “Joker” — 0.2% (October 4)
- “Little Women” — 21% (December 25)
- “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” — 0.5% (July 26)
- “Parasite” — 18% (October 11)
- “The Irishmen” — N/A (Netflix)
- “Marriage Story” — N/A (Netflix)
SEE ALSO: 14 Oscar-nominated movies you can watch on Netflix and other streaming services
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