“The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Boyhood” were the big winners at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards, picking up statuettes for best comedy and best drama, but the box office benefits for both films will be scant.
A big part of the problem is that audiences will be hard pressed to find either film at the local multiplex. “Boyhood” was released last summer and is only kicking around in 20 theaters. It debuted on home entertainment platforms last week. Likewise, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” hasn’t been on the bigscreen for months — its Blu-ray and DVD unveiling came way back in June. The win could help disc sales, though not as much as a date with Oscar will boost future revenues.
So why do studios campaign so aggressively, spending millions of dollars in the pursuit of these shiny baubles?
It’s because mentioning these films and the actors who star in them in such elite company can be the difference between success or failure. That’s particularly true for indie productions such as “Whiplash” and “Birdman,” which are trying to elbow into a film market that prizes special effects-driven superhero films over adult dramas.
“It’s free publicity,” said Eric Handler, an analyst with MKM Partners. “The nominations and the telecast provide promotional value for smaller films.”
However, the timing of many of the major contenders’ releases is conspiring against any kind of box office lift from Golden Globes or Oscar wins. Many of the honorees are winding down their theatrical runs or have already left the bigscreen. “Boyhood” is the first winner of the Globes’ best drama prize to have opened in the height of summer since “Gladiator” scored the honor in 2000, and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is the first spring release to nab the best comedy statuette since “The Player” pulled off the feat in 1992.
That’s in stark contrast to prior awards seasons when films such as “The Artist” and “The King’s Speech” debuted at the end of the calendar year, allowing them to make the bulk of their grosses between the time that major nominations were announced and the Oscar telecast aired.
“This year I don’t see a lot of benefit compared to past years in terms of what awards can do for movies,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “‘Boyhood’ is expected to be a big winner, and that’s already available on Amazon. You’re not going to get that theatrical bump that’s happened to some movies in years past and that’s allowed them to shoot past $100 million.”
There are a few exceptions. Civil Rights Movement drama “Selma” expanded from 22 to 2,179 screens last weekend and should add a few hundred more venues by Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Likewise, “American Sniper” will move from four locations to more than 3,000 screens this weekend. The only problem is that both pictures were shut out of the major categories on Globes night. Their distributors are hoping that Academy Awards voters feel differently when Oscar nominations are announced this week.
The film that looks best positioned to capitalize on a Globes victory is likely “Still Alice,” which scored a best actress in a drama statuette for Julianne Moore and has only had an awards qualifying run in a handful of theaters. The Globes award will help attract audiences to a film about early onset Alzheimer’s disease when it rolls out on more screens. That topic is not an easy sell, and it’s the kind of picture that can use all the help it can get.
In Hollywood, the Golden Globes are viewed as a boozier, less prestigious cousin to the Oscars, owing in part to the reputation of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the ethically flexible organization that produces the show. That’s a distinction that’s lost on the viewing public, however.
“Most people just view it as the minor leagues of awards,” said Contrino. “They don’t understand the difference. They think that if it gets attention at the Globes, it’s automatically an Oscar contender. That can be beneficial.”