MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

20 Weeks To Oscar: Cash & Carrying Gold

Let’s start with a chart…

oscarb bp list ww feb 11

 

 

That’s what the Best Picture race looks like at the box office today.

And here is a key stat about winning Best Picture: Since the expansion to 5+ Best Picture nominees, no film that has won Best Picture has been better than #3 on the list of domestic box office grossers amongst the nominees. Another chart…

oscar gross ranks bp since exp

La La Land was the #2 domestic grosser when nominated and is currently the #2 domestic grosser post-nominations. Internationally, it will the #1 in this group, and pulling further away, now and in future.

So… a La La Land win would break new ground, in terms of relative box office, for the expanded Oscar Best Picture era.

And for those of you who are praying for Moonlight to win, it, too, would break new ground, not only in the expanded era, but before as well. Going back 40 years, no film with the lowest domestic gross amongst the nominees has won Best Picture. The lowest-grossing film to win Best Picture in the same 40 years span was The Hurt Locker, with $14.7m before the win, which still had two nominees behind it on the gross list. Second lowest was Birdman, which was still Top 5 in its group with $37.8 million before the win. Moonlight is currently at $19.8 million. So it’s more than The Hurt Locker, but about half of Birdman at this point in the season and last amongst BP nominees, which has no chance of changing without a win.

La La is not in the middle of the pack. If you were looking for that, Manchester by the Sea would be your stalking horse.

Starting in 2005/06, with Crash, we have seen 7 Best Picture winners (of 12) that have grossed under $75m domestic even after winning. and 5 of the 7 winners since the BP expansion have grossed under $75m domestic all in. This is a major change in how The Academy sees the status of its winner. They may not be color blind, but they are much more money blind.

Argo is the only $100m domestic grosser to win in the expanded BP era.

Still… whatever film you are rooting for, La La Land fits the more classic Oscar mold, in terms of money. Thanks to the great success of Hidden Figures, La La Land is not the #1 domestic nominee. The Departed was the last film that was #1 grosser when it won… Slumdog Millionaire became the #1 in its group of nominees after it won, banking a record $43m domestic after winning (though $30m+ grosses after winning were not always so rare).

I have been throwing out this stat for years, but in the 30 years of Oscar before the expansion of BP nominees, only three times was the winner not one of the two highest grossers. Two of those times, it was the #3. The other example, it was #4. But 27 of 30 times, it was one of the Top 2. That is modern Academy thinking. That has changed.

But if La La Land wins, which I still expect it to, it will be a expanded-BP/post-modern Academy anomaly. And that is, after all, the natural fate for statistics meant to measure the vagaries of the heart.

One Response to “20 Weeks To Oscar: Cash & Carrying Gold”

  1. John Rieber says:

    David, great analysis and insight. What will the surprise be this year – Actor? Actress? Picture? Those seem to be the three with some uncertainty.

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“The worst thing that we have in today’s movie culture is Rotten Tomatoes. It’s the destruction of our business. I have such respect and admiration for film criticism. When I was growing up film criticism was a real art. And there was intellect that went into that. And you would read Pauline’s Kael’s reviews, or some others, and that doesn’t exist anymore. Now it’s about a number. A compounded number of how many positives vs. negatives. Now it’s about, ‘What’s your Rotten Tomatoes score?’ And that’s sad, because the Rotten Tomatoes score was so low on Batman v Superman I think it put a cloud over a movie that was incredibly successful. People don’t realize what goes into making a movie like that. It’s mind-blowing. It’s just insane, it’s hurting the business, it’s getting people to not see a movie. In Middle America it’s, ‘Oh, it’s a low Rotten Tomatoes score so I’m not going to go see it because it must suck.’ But that number is an aggregate and one that nobody can figure out exactly what it means, and it’s not always correct. I’ve seen some great movies with really abysmal Rotten Tomatoes scores. What’s sad is film criticism has disappeared. It’s really sad.”
~ Brett Ratner Has A Sad

“The loss of a local newspaper critic is a real loss. People who know the local audience and know the local cultural scene are very important resources. You can’t just substitute the stuff that comes in from nowhere through syndication or the wire. I think at the same time, some of the newer outlets have really beefed up and improved their coverage and made room for criticism. The real problem is in the more specialized art forms — fine arts, classical music, dance and jazz, say. There is a real slowing of critical voices, partly because those art forms have smaller audiences. Newspapers and magazines can say that doesn’t get enough traffic, so we don’t have room for that. To me, that’s especially worrisome. This is the opposite of what newspapers are supposed to do, which is not to try to figure out what people are already interested in and recite that back to them, but to hopefully guide them to something that they should be interested in, connecting potential audiences with more interesting work.

“Then again, not everyone needs a critic. People have been going to movies for more than 100 years now, and probably the vast majority of those people have not read movie reviews or cared what critics thought. But there has always been an important subset that wants to know more, that wants to think about what they’ve seen and what they’re going to see, and wants someone to think along with. I think critics are important, not just as dispensers of consumer advice — though that’s certainly part of it, too — but as trusted voices and companions for people to argue with in your head when you’re going to movies or afterwards.”
~ A. O. Scott