This year’s Oscar race was a study in contrasts as the two pics that received the highest number of noms reflected opposite ends of the box office spectrum. “The Hurt Locker” became the lowest-grossing best pic winner in modern history, topping “Avatar,” the highest-grossing movie of all time.
One thing the two films have in common, though, is that neither benefited much from a post-nominations boost.
“Avatar” already had become a box office juggernaut, surpassing James Cameron’s own previous recordholder and Oscar best picture winner “Titanic,” in early February. “Hurt Locker” had ended its theatrical release by the time Academy Award noms were announced, grossing $21.4 million worldwide to date. Film was released on DVD Jan. 12, although Summit re-released the pic in theaters at 103 locations immediately following Oscar noms and expanded to 274 engagements by Oscar weekend.
Similarly, many of this year’s larger crop of 10 best pic nominees had played out their runs by the time the Oscar noms were announced on Feb. 2.
Pic nominees including “Avatar” and Warner Bros.’ “The Blind Side,” which passed $250 million as of Sunday, hardly need the B.O. boost as they near the end of their lucrative theatrical runs.
Specialty pics are usually the biggest beneficiaries of awards attention.
While Lionsgate’s “Precious” held steady this past weekend, falling just 1% with $200,000, most nominees are too far along in their release to see a major boost. Without a win in the pic category, it is unlikely distribs will expand their releases so late in the game.
“Precious” expanded considerably after nominations, as did “An Education,” with limited impact. “Precious” has earned $47.4 million since its Nov. 6 bow, while “An Education,” released Oct. 9, has taken $12.1 million.
Fox Searchlight exec VP of distribution Sheila DeLoach said that while early releases can limit a post-Oscar boost, auds are still persuaded by nods.
Searchlight’s strategic release of “Crazy Heart,” starring Jeff Bridges, who won in the acting category, and nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal, was well timed for awards, with the pic totaling $29.6 million since its release on Dec. 16. Distrib continues a steady rollout of the film with “Crazy Heart” earning $3.6 million at 1,274 engagements over Oscar weekend.
“If you have the right movie that hasn’t been overexposed or hasn’t been released on DVD, then a post-Oscar boost can definitely happen,” DeLoach said. Searchlight recently paid for a TV spot that aired during Jay Leno’s return to “The Tonight Show.”
Sony Pictures Classics launched its foreign-lingo contender “A Prophet” the weekend prior to the Oscarcast with ambitions of expanding to key U.S. markets the following week. “Prophet” debuted with $163,773 at nine locations and has cumed $517,605.
SPC also distributes nominee “The White Ribbon,” which has cumed a moderate $1.7 million in its 10th frame, and Argentina’s Foreign film winner “The Secret in Their Eyes,” set for release on April 16.
Nominees in the short film categories (live-action and animated) have received a theatrical release for five consecutive years thanks to a partnership between specialty distrib Magnolia and Shorts Intl. This year’s batch, which hit theaters on Feb. 19, has earned $610,402 at 95 engagements and will continue to expand to some 100 cities.
Surprise toon contender GKids’ “The Secret of Kells” launched at one location on Friday for an impressive per-screen average of $40,715. Distrib’s prexy, Eric Beckman, credited the toon’s Oscar nom as a factor contributing to the successful opening.
“I think people are really interested in the film,” Beckman said. “And you don’t really think of family audiences as Oscar curious.”
While “Kells” will look for continued post-Oscars attention, Disney’s “Up” took home the toon B.O. trophy.
Winning toon “Up” has grossed $293 million domestically, with DVD earnings totaling $155 million since Nov. 15, according to Nash Information Services. Toon was the third-highest DVD seller in the U.S. in 2009 with $145 million, just behind “Twilight” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”
Disney’s other toon contender, “The Princess and the Frog,” has struck a chord with overseas auds, grossing $146 million, compared to U.S. totals of $103.3 million. “Princess” is set for DVD release on March 16.
Other nominees already on DVD include the Weinstein Co.’s “Inglourious Basterds,” which took home the supporting prize for Christoph Waltz; Sony’s sci-fier and pic nominee “District 9”; and Focus’ “A Serious Man,” directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Paramount’s adapted screenplay nominee “Up in the Air” (it lost to “Precious”) hits shelves Tuesday.