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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“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many recappers, while clearly over their heads, are baseline sympathetic to finding themselves routinely unmoored, even if that means repeating over and over that this is closer to “avant-garde art” than  normal TV to meet the word count. My feed was busy connecting the dots to Peter Tscherkassky (gas station), Tony Conrad (the giant staring at feedback of what we’ve just seen), Pat O’Neill (bombs away) et al., and this is all apposite — visual and conceptual thinking along possibly inadvertent parallel lines. If recappers can’t find those exact reference points to latch onto, that speaks less to willful ignorance than to how unfortunately severed experimental film is from nearly all mainstream discussions of film because it’s generally hard to see outside of privileged contexts (fests, academia, the secret knowledge of a self-preserving circle working with a very finite set of resources and publicity access to the larger world); resources/capital/access/etc. So I won’t assign demerits for willful incuriosity, even if some recappers are reduced, in some unpleasantly condescending/bluffing cases, to dismissing this as a “student film” — because presumably experimentation is something the seasoned artist gets out of their system in maturity, following the George Lucas Model of graduating from Bruce Conner visuals to Lawrence Kasdan’s screenwriting.”
~ Vadim Rizov Goes For It, A Bit

“On the first ‘Twin Peaks,’ doing TV was like going from a mansion to a hut. But the arthouses are gone now, so cable television is a godsend — they’re the new art houses. You’ve got tons of freedom to do the work you want to do on TV, but there is a restriction in terms of picture and sound. The range of television is restricted. It’s hard for the power and the glory to come through. In other words, you can have things in a theater much louder and also much quieter. With TV, the quieter things have to be louder and the louder things have to be quieter, so you have less dynamics. The picture quality — it’s fine if you have a giant television with a good speaker system, but a lot of people will watch this on their laptops or whatever, so the picture and the sound are going to suffer big time. Optimally, people should be watching TV in a dark room with no disturbances and with as big and good a picture as possible and with as great sound as possible.”
~ David Lynch