Oscar Impact: Shakespeare in Love Vs. Saving Private Ryan

The specific date of a film's release is also a crucial variable in determining its Oscar prospects and ultimate box-office appeal.

A December release, John Madden's historical romantic comedy, “Shakespeare in Love,” the 1998 Oscar-winner, enjoyed a significant box-office boost over the first post-Oscar weekend, with a three-day gross of $4.4 million, up 48 percent from the previous weekend.

Miramax, the film's distributor, then wisely widened the picture's number of play-dates by 52 percent, from 1,266 to 1,931 screens, in an effort to capitalize on Shakespeare's seven Oscars.

By contrast, Spielberg's well-received WWII drama, “Saving Private Ryan,” which opened in July 1998, went into the Oscar show with roughly $210 million in domestic ticket sales, so obviously its five Oscars, including Spielberg's Best Director, were of lesser commercial impact.