×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Oscar Best Picture Nominees Are Box Office Lightweights

Oscar voters stuck to the arthouse and steered clear of the multiplexes this year.

Siding with art over commerce makes 2014’s slate of best picture nominees the weakest crop of contenders from a box office perspective in recent history.

This is the first time since 2007 that no film up for the top prize has collected $100 million domestically by the time nominations were announced. Only one film, “American Sniper,” looks positioned to ever hit that benchmark.

As it stands, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is the highest-grossing contender, having made $59.1 million Stateside.

“I don’t know if less people are going to watch [the Oscars], but it does mean that less people will be invested in the telecast,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “It’s simply a numbers thing.”

Among the eight films up for best picture, the average gross before nominations were announced was $25.4 million. In contrast, 2013’s crop, a group that included box office hits such as “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Gravity,” had an average haul of $72.1 million before nominations, and 2012’s pack, which boasted “Lincoln” and “Life of Pi,” grossed an average of $69.5 million at a similar point in awards season. It doesn’t help that voters nominated only eight films out of a possible 10.

At various points, it appeared that popular hits such as “Unbroken” ($102.9 million, domestic) and “Interstellar” ($185.1 million, domestic) might sneak into the race, but they never enjoyed the groundswell of critical support needed to make them frontrunners. That made for a collection of nominees that was heavy on auteur cred but lacking in mainstream appeal.

Popular on Variety

“Arthouse-oriented films, when they get nominated — it doesn’t always translate into big box office dollars,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations.

It also doesn’t help that two of the leading contenders, “Boyhood” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” have been out of theaters for months and are available on home entertainment platforms. Fox Searchlight, the studio behind “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” will re-release the film in five theaters, while IFC, the studio behind “Boyhood,” is planning a 100-screen revival. Any bump they receive will likely be in DVD or electronic sales, however.

“The impact of Oscar nominations mostly happens in home entertainment markets,” said Tom Adams, a home entertainment analyst. “There’s enough anecdotal information to suggest that it does have a positive impact particularly because a lot of these nominees aren’t huge in theaters. They are able to get a little pop.”

Although ABC, the network that broadcasts the Oscars, is likely disappointed that no blockbusters made the cut, indie veterans are thrilled that voters opted for edgier fare.

“It’s immensely impactful for independent films to have the nominations,” said Celine Rattray, the Oscar-nominated producer of “The Kids Are All Right.” “These indie films are competing with movies that have 10-to-20 times their marketing budgets.”

“These awards give a film a stamp of quality, so people know it’s worth watching,” she added. “For indie films, it allows these titles to cross over to the mainstream.”

There are a few films that stand to capitalize on the awards attention. “American Sniper” is about to expand from four to 3,555 theaters this weekend and is on pace to make more than $40 million this weekend. The Oscar love could pad those numbers slightly, analysts say.

“Selma,” which received a best picture nod but was shut out of most major categories, may also get a boost, as could “The Theory of Everything,” “The Imitation Game,” “Whiplash” and “Birdman,” all of which have been in theaters for weeks, if not months, but are still kicking around.

Such past best-picture nominees as “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Her” and “The Artist” did more than half of their box office revenue after nominations were announced.

“It can entice or excite people that maybe would not have gone to see a film,” said Frank Rodriguez, senior vice president of distribution at Fox Searchlight. “Now it has the Oscar credibility, so they decide to go.”

More Film

  • Richard Jewell

    Box Office: Clint Eastwood Suffers Worst Opening in Four Decades With 'Richard Jewell'

    Clint Eastwood might end up with a lump of box office coal after “Richard Jewell” sputtered in its domestic debut. Despite critical acclaim, Warner Bros.’ drama about the security guard falsely accused by the media for playing a part in the 1996 Olympics bombing ignited with a dismal $5 million from 2,502 theaters. It’s a [...]

  • (from left) Tom (Henry Golding) and

    Emilia Clarke's 'Last Christmas' Crosses $100 Million at Global Box Office

    Universal’s “Last Christmas,” a romantic comedy starring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, surpassed $100 million in global ticket sales. The milestone is a win for original fare, one that is especially impressive considering the movie was skewered by critics for its wacky twist ending. After six weeks in theaters, “Last Christmas” has earned $34.4 million [...]

  • DSCF0855.RAF

    'Jumanji 2' Rules Overseas Box Office With $85 Million

    Sony’s “Jumanji: The Next Level” powered international box office charts, collecting $85 million from 34 markets over the weekend. The action-packed sequel kicked off in North America with $60 million for a global start of $145 million. “Jumanji: The Next Level” debuted in a handful of foreign territories last weekend, bringing box office receipts to [...]

  • Rey (Daisy Ridley) in STAR WARS:

    Disney Plus Signs Exclusive Distribution Deal With Canal Plus in France

    Ahead of its launch in France on March 31, 2020, Disney Plus has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Canal Plus Group, the country’s leading pay-TV company. The deal, which was first reported in the French newspaper Les Echos and confirmed by Canal Plus Group CEO Maxime Saada on his Twitter account, marks a new [...]

  • French movie actress Anna Karina smiles

    Anna Karina, French New Wave Star and Jean-Luc Godard Collaborator, Dies at 79

    French New Wave star Anna Karina, who served as a muse for Jean-Luc Godard and appeared in eight of his films, has died. She was 79. France’s culture minister, Franck Reister, announced her death in a tweet, as did her agent, Laurent Balandras, who attributed the cause as cancer. “Her gaze was the gaze of [...]

  • Frozen 2

    'Frozen 2' Sets Record as Disney's Sixth Movie to Hit $1 Billion in 2019

    “Frozen 2” is the sixth Disney movie this year to hit $1 billion globally, strengthening the studio’s sheer dominance over the box office. Those ticket sales extend the benchmark Disney set over summer, with five other films — “Avengers: Endgame,” “Aladdin,” “Toy Story 4,” “The Lion King” and “Captain Marvel” — joining the billion-dollar club [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content