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David Poland

By David Poland

20 Weeks To Oscar: Box Office

Here is a look at the entire Oscar Best Picture picture in terms of box office as of today:

BO BP Contenders 2014-12-07 at 12.26.03 PM

It’s worth noting that the expansion of the Oscar field to as many as 10 Best Picture nominees has changed the dynamics of box office and the nominations significantly. It has opened up the Academy. In the five years with the potential of a larger field, the norm has become that three films with grosses under $25m at the time of nominations get Best Picture nods. Last year, that grew to four.

In the 10 years prior to the expansion to as-many-as-10-BP-nods, with just five nominees each year, there were 12 nominees that got their nods while their gross was under $25 million.

Fifteen of these sixteen pre-nom low grossers in the last five seasons are, truly, “small” movies. They are not what we came to be used to with Harvey Weinstein slingshotting his commercial movies by using Oscar. These small films are, increasingly, getting a real “Oscar Bump,” even if the concept is antiquated amongst the wide-release movies.

Of all of these Under-$25ms in these last five seasons, only The Weinsteins with The Artist and Sony with Zero Dark Thirty really held a movie that went on to have a wide release but stayed small until nominations. (Another factor in this is that The Academy moved its nomination day up two weeks just two years ago. This will be the third year of nominations coming out in the first half of January.)

It started slowly in 2009, with The Hurt Locker opening in summer, A Serious Man being out of theaters, and An Education getting a small bump in 2009. 2010 wasn’t all that exciting either, though 127 Hours did about a third of its business after being nominated. But The Kids Are All Right and Winter’s Bone were both summer films.

In 2011, Weinstein did slingshot The Artist and it did almost three-quarters of its business after its nomination… but this was also a highly specialized film in black + white, and silent, with actors unknown in the U.S. Also hoping to slingshot was Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, from WB, which opened on six screens on Christmas and held until the week before nominations. However, the film widened to $10 million the weekend before nominations and its trajectory from there wasn’t really different than you would expect without an awards push. The third film, Tree of Life, opened in summer.

In 2012, the biggest slingshot was Silver Linings Playbook, though it went into nominations with $35 million and then took off big time. The aforementioned Zero Dark Thirty was held in check by Sony until nominations, though that was probably a political choice more than a marketing/distribution preference. Beasts of the Southern Wild was a summer opener, which re-opened, then did another $1.5 million after nominations. But Amour was a great story for Sony Classics. The film never went wide. 333 screens max. But the film generated over $6 million off of its Oscar nod… almost double Haneke’s previous best in the U.S.

Last year, Philomena, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, and Nebraska were all in the under-$25m club going into nominations. Four different studios. One indie, one dependent, two majors. Each one of the four films had been on at least 537 screens before nominations. One had gone as wide as it was ever going to go. $15 million for Philomena, $10 million for Dallas Buyers Club, $15 million for Her, and $9 million for Nebraska all feel like found Oscar money to me.

The question is, will this become a full-on trend?

If you listen to the buzz, the current focus of the season is all on movies that have grossed under $25 million. There are 2 unopened movies in the current Gurus o Gold Top 10, but of the 8 that have opened, only Gone Girl has grossed more than $24 million domestically. Theory, Imitation, and Wild all show the potential to pass that mark, but how quickly? Birdman, if garnering a load of nominations as expected, passes $25 million… but we’re looking at perceptions before nominations here.

And then the bigger question… what does the history of box office in Academy voting really mean? The sense in the past was that the perception of success was critical to voters choosing to vote for their true favorites, not wanting to “Waste” their vote. After The Hurt Locker won with less than $15 million in the box office till… after The Artist won with $32 million… And even 12 Years A Slave at $50 million and 4 well-respected contenders over $100 million… does “a wasted vote” exist anymore?

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2 Responses to “20 Weeks To Oscar: Box Office”

  1. Bob Burns says:

    We’re making “foreign films” now….. films with budgets similar to regular film budgets in Europe. And big international movies.

    I want the big movies to be better – good enough to contend for awards, but the dialogue is so bad.

  2. James says:

    For future reference:
    Actors of fully Jewish background: -Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Logan Lerman, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julian Morris, Adam Brody, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Gabriel Macht, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lisa Kudrow, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Debra Messing, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Margarita Levieva, Elizabeth Berkley, Halston Sage, Seth Gabel, Skylar Astin, Mia Kirshner, Alden Ehrenreich, Eric Balfour, Jason Isaacs, Jon Bernthal.

    Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, James Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Emmy Rossum, Rashida Jones, Jennifer Connelly, Nora Arnezeder, Goldie Hawn, Ginnifer Goodwin, Amanda Peet, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman, Ben Barnes, Patricia Arquette, Kyra Sedgwick, Dave Annable.

    Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Andrew Garfield, Ezra Miller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, Nicola Peltz, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Winona Ryder, Ben Foster, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron, Jonathan Keltz.

    Oh, and Ansel Elgort’s father is Jewish, though I don’t know how Ansel was raised.

    Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon