Oscar History: Box-Office Impact on Oscars TV Ratings?

Box-Office Impact on TV Ratings of Oscar Show?

Data from 36 telecasts shows that big grosses matter to viewership, and there’s historical edge for more popular films among the Academy membership.

Viewership for the Oscars telecast, as well as average box-office returns of films nominated for best picture, have been on a downward trend for years.

Six of the past 7 years of the ABC telecasts saw smaller audience than the year before.

Only the Academy Awards anchored by Avatar (2010) and Black Panther (2019) averaged $170 million or more per film in the post-Lord of the Rings era (2002-2004) figure achieved 9 times in the preceding 14 years.

Since 1986, there has been strong positive correlation between viewership and box office.

In the chart below, the years with higher box office averages tend to also have higher ratings, and recent years have seen a downturn in both nominee ticket sales and ceremony viewership.

It is plausible, based on data, that viewers are more likely to tune in to the Oscars when movies they saw in theaters are nominated for the top prize.

Lazy loaded image

The below chart shows the box office hauls of every best picture nominee since the 1986 ceremony, with the winning films in blue and the other nominees in yellow.

On average, the blue dots — including notable best picture winners like Forrest Gump and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King — sit about $36 million above where the yellow dots land, suggesting some preference for more popular films among the membership.

Tis conclusion comes with a couple of important caveats.

The data is skewed by the presence of gargantuan grosser Titanic.

This is only a preference for more popular films within the list of nominated films, and in recent years those nominees have diverged from the list of box office successes.

Lazy loaded image

Source: Hollywood Reporter, Variety