Oscar Means Business

January 28, 2011

Photo courtesy of Media Bistro

It probably comes as no surprise to most that an Oscar nomination usually means a big bump at the box office. I added “Hurt Locker” to my Netflix queue after it won best picture last year. According to The New York Times Carpetbagger blog, the average best picture winner over the last four years experienced a 22% increase in revenue after being named a nominee and an additional 15% jump following a win. You don’t even have to win!

What may come as a surprise, and it makes sense, is that nominating already popular films is big business for the Academy. There seems to be a direct correlation between how many viewers tune into the awards show and pre-Oscars box office figures for the nominees.

The most people to ever watch the Oscars? Maybe you remember “Titanic,” the highest grossing movie of all time (in a 2D world)? In 1995, when “‘Titanic” won best picture and Leo stole my heart, more than 55 million people tuned in to the Oscars.

Need another example? In 2008, when “No Country For Old Men” won Best Picture, fewer than 32 million viewers tuned in. “No Country for Old Men,” a low-budget, independently financed film only brought in around $50 million pre-Oscars.

I guess that explains why last year the Academy returned to nominating 10 films for best picture after more than a half-century of only nominating five. For every “The Kids Are Alright,” domestic gross $20 million, you need “The Social Network,” domestic gross $95 million. For every “Winter’s Bone” (???), domestic gross $6 million, you have “Inception,” $292 million. For every “The King’s Speech,” which took in around $26 million before the Golden Globes buzz, there’s “Toy Story 3,” domestic gross $415 million.

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards airs Sunday, Feb. 27, at 5 p.m. on ABC.

Note: Box office figures from BoxOfficeMojo.com