Oscar 2007: Impact of Oscar Nominations on Commercial Appeal

February 22, 2008–According to the trades, the five best picture Oscar contenders made $97 million domestically since Academy Award nominations were announced January 22. That's more than double the $44 million pulled in by last year's class during the same frame.

That's an impressive number considering that the five nominees are specialty films that, except for Fox Searchlight's comedy hit “Juno,” are serious, even somber narratives. Moreover, two of the films, Warner's “Michael Clayton” and Miramax's “No Country for Old Men,” were well into their runs.

The total combined domestic cumulative for five best picture nominees, which all began as limited releases, through Tuesday was $314.4 million, according to Rentrak. That compares to a combined cumulative of $287.8 million last year.

Last year, the best picture contenders grossed an average of $8.8 million between the time of the Oscar announcements and the week before the ceremony. In each of the two years prior to that, the top nominees grossed an average of $13 million during the same time period. This year, the average is $19.4 million. The numbers suggest that the road to Oscar is an important publicity tool in getting viewers into theaters.

Each of the five films followed a smart, carefully plotted expansion strategy. Both “No Country” and “Michael Clayton” hung onto enough theaters between mid-December and January to make sure they could then expand out again.

Michael Clayton

Warner opened “Michael Clayton” on October 5, and it was only playing in 33 theaters by the time of Oscar nominations, then expanded out to more than 1,000 with a cume of roughly $39 million. According to Variety, released on DVD this week, “Clayton” has grossed $8.4 million in the time since for a cume of $47.8 million through Tuesday. The additional coin represents 17.5% of the total gross.

No Country for Old Men

The Coen brothers “No Country,” released November 11, picked up its theater count after January 22, grossing an additional $11.8 million since then for a cume of $61.3 million and an uptick in business of 24%. According to Variety, of the film's cume, 30% are post-nominations receipts.

Juno

“Juno,” opening at the end of November, stayed on relatively few screens through most of December before expanding to more than 1,000 runs just after Christmas on its way to playing in more than 2,400 theaters through January.

At the time of the Oscar noms, “Juno's” gross was $90 million; it has made $38.4 million since then for a cume of $128.4 million and an uptick of 39%. Of the total gross, 30.6% has come since January 22.

While “Juno” didn't necessarily need the Oscar exposure, the awards attention has clearly helped. So far this year, “Juno” is the only film to stay on the top 10 box office chart every weekend.

Atonement

Opening on December 7, “Atonement” expanded slowly before substantially increasing its screen count just after the Golden Globe winners were announced January 13. It expanded again after January 22.

At the time of the Oscar nominations, “Atonement's” cume was $34 million; it has parlayed the awards attention into an additional $15.2 million in box office coin for a cume of $49.2 million and an uptick of 41%. Additional gross represents 31.1% of film's cume.

There Will Be No Blood

Paramount Vantage's “There Will Be Blood” didn't open until December 26 in order to make the most of awards attention. Thus, 72.7% or $23.2 million of the film's $31.9 million came in after the Oscar nominations, which represents an uptick of 225%.