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Oscar Watch: Which Pictures Get Box Office Boosts From Nominations?

by Anthony D'Alessandro
January 30, 2011 7:39 AM
6 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

Post-Oscar nominations, many distribs are pushing their Academy Award contenders into wider release. Anthony D'Alessandro looks at the numbers behind the Oscar Factor:


Despite the onslaught of wide-audience rom-coms and horror-thrillers over the next month, winter is prime season for Oscar contenders to make hay at the box office.

“Look at the new releases that are coming out: Few have commercial prospects and that will help the Oscar contenders' playability in the next six weeks,” says one distrib exec. “These films are filling a void in the marketplace.”

This weekend’s estimated results are proof positive: The King’s Speech and 127 Hours saw remarkable surges of 41% and 1,687% respectively. Working off Michelle Williams’ best actress nod alone, Weinstein Co.’s Blue Valentine saw a 33% spike. Already in wide release, True Grit inched up 4% while The Fighter registered a modest dip of 3%. On average since New Year’s Eve, The Social Network (8 noms) has churned out a half-million dollars each weekend from its limited play and is earning double money on DVD with a top sales chart haul of $14.1 million (as of Jan. 16).

As in years past, arthouse selections such as King’s Speech and 127 Hours are seeing the greatest gains as they cross to a mainstream audience. By Oscar night last year, Crazy Heart saw one of the biggest domestic B.O. increases, +342%, vs. Avatar’s +21% uptick.

And Oscar’s afterglow isn’t just radiating at the B.O., but at Walmart and Target where non-Oscar alley contenders are flying off shelves. For the week ending Jan. 16 per the Numbers.com, Inception (eight noms) has sold 4 million DVDs or $67 million. In its 11th week of release, Toy Story 3 (five noms) has grossed $170.8 million on DVD while animated rival How to Train Your Dragon (four noms) has collected $108 million through 14 weeks. Since hitting stores on Oct. 26, Winter's Bone, with four Oscar noms, has earned $2.1 million. The Kids Are All Right has yet to register on the charts.

Here’s a look at the theatrical B.O. bumps that this year’s contenders can expect to achieve when awards are handed out on February 27:


The King’s Speech (Weinstein Co.)

No. of noms: 12

Current B.O. and theater count: $72.2 million, 2,557 theaters.

Estimated bump by Oscar night: +40%-plus

Prognosis: Word-of-mouth is enormous for this film as it continues to steamroll The Social Network as the Oscar frontrunner with both PGA and DGA wins. Among Weinstein Bros.’ British imports at nomination time, Speech has bagged more pounds at the B.O. than such actor-friendly entries as The Queen, The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love. One business practice for the Weinsteins, harking back to their Miramax days, has been maintaining the widest play point for their contenders between noms and Oscar night. A similar plan is in store for King's Speech as it will continue to increase its theater count well beyond this weekend’s 2,557 venues. Harvey says he’ll produce a PG-13 cut of the film in order to reach a more family-friendly audience, but that won’t impact the King’s coffers until it collects its Oscar ducats. A reformed TV campaign focusing on the two protag’s relationship in the film is paying off with a 41% spike in weekend grosses as of Sunday. Even with an R-rated cut, a $100-million domestic haul for King’s Speech by Oscar night is a feasible royal conquest.

True Grit (Paramount)

No of noms: 10

Current B.O. and theater count:: $148.4 million, 3,120 theaters

Estimated bump by Oscar night: +8-24%

Prognosis: It continues to play wide, however, the question is, can True Grit unseat 1990 Best Picture winner Dances With Wolves ($184.2 million) to become the highest-grossing western at the domestic B.O.? It’s already No. 2. Maybe. At bare minimum True Grit will continue to play wide into Oscar night finaling around the $160-million range.

The Fighter (Paramount)

No of noms: 7

Current B.O. and theater count:: $78.4 million, 1,914 theaters

Estimated bump by Oscar night: +8-28%

Prognosis: Paramount recently dropped 361 theaters. However, audiences love this film, giving it a 90% Flixster rating. The Fighter hasn’t yet reached Rocky's $100-million-plus ring prize, particularly with the one-two punch star power of Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. Who knew True Grit would out-gallop The Fighter? Oscar steam could catapult The Fighter past the century mark, but its final cume looks to be around $85 million.

127 Hours

Current B.O. and theater count:: $13.4 million, 916 theaters

No of noms: 6

Estimated bump by Oscar night:+34-49%

Prognosis: Oscar noms should persuade reluctant moviegoers to check out this tough survival story; Fox Searchlight has pushed as cleverly as they could to get past considerable resistance to sitting through this movie, no matter how lauded. On the low end, its domestic gross should match its $18-million budget. Fox Searchlight’s expansion to 916 theaters this weekend was well-timed to 127 Hours' nods for Best Actor, Adapted Screenplay and Original Score. The film delivered its best weekend ever-- $2 million-- since opening November 5. The attention surrounding James Franco’s double-duty as both Oscar host and actor nominee isn’t a sharp stick in the eye either...er, arm.

Black Swan (Fox Searchlight)

No of noms: 5

Current B.O. and theater count:: $90.7 million, 2,315 theaters

Estimated bump by Oscar night:+10-20%

Prognosis: One thing about this ballerina, she’s no Wrestler ($26.2 million), another Searchlight Oscar thesp heavyweight. Like Slumdog Millionaire, Oscar noms will propel Black Swan past $100 million. That’s a record for Searchlight as their previous thesp-lauded nominees grossed far less, i.e. Crazy Heart ($39.5 million) and The Last King of Scotland ($17.6 million). But Black Swan broke out of the arthouse a few weeks ago. The Darren Aronofsky flm won over females, but its cool psycho-suspense also appealed to men. During its play in recent frames, Black Swan’s demo has moved from the under 25 crowd to the 25-34 set.

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More: Awards, Box Office, Winter

6 Comments

  • Anthony | February 2, 2011 6:55 AMReply

    The story with 127 Hours is that Pathe brought the project to Fox, and co-financed. Pathe held on to the UK, France and French lingo Europe for a percentage of the budget. Fox took the rest of the world for the balance of the budget.

  • Anthony | February 1, 2011 11:57 AMReply

    Hi Anne and Sean,
    I'm still gathering some info on this, but from what I know, "127 Hours" was a co-prod b/t Pathe and Fox Searchlight, so Fox isn't on the hook for the entire budget. Including non-Fox territories, int'l is currently at $11 million-plus, hence global is $24.7 million. 7 more territories including Spain are bowing this weekend. Non-fox countries include UK, France, Swiss and Belgium.

    Sean is right -- distrib shares are much smaller at this point in the game. Part of me feels this is too close to call at this point. If anything, the ideal for "127 Hours" to emulate is "Into the Wild"--a film that made about $18 million here and went wide abroad in Oscar alley and beyond,ultimately making $37 million overseas.

    http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=intl&id=intothewild.htm

  • juan | February 1, 2011 9:56 AMReply

    I am spanisch screwrentier films

  • seanflynn | February 1, 2011 5:33 AMReply

    127 Hours was low enough budget ($18 million pre-marketing) that it most likely will never break even, although I don't know how much is left in foreign grossing potential (the world wide total is now $23 million).

    Its US take is now at $13.5 million, with likely getting up to $15 million or a bit more. However, film rental - what Fox Searchlight gets from this - is likely to be closer to 40% than the standard 50% (much of its gross will come from later weeks where exhibitors could be paying as low as 30-35% per week). So it will retail only around $6 million in the US - probably less than what it has spent on marketing and prints.

    So that leaves at least an $18 million hole to dig out of. Again, foreign is the question mark, but so far it is at best likely at a break even situation in regards to marketing without reducing the original indebtness.

    Cable deals for studios normally are pegged to domestic gross, so this won't put a big dent in the $18 million. DVDs of course are another later source of revenue, and this likely will sell more than normal compared to what normally would be expected from the gross, but again we're talking low millions in profit at best.

    So in a season when many of the BP nominees are big winners, this, along with probably The Kids Are All Right (a bit more complicated because the producers and distributor are not one entity, so the calculation is more complicated and not as public) and possibly Roadside Attractions in relatation to Winter's Bone are the lagging ones.

  • Anne Thompson | February 1, 2011 5:07 AMReply

    Anthony and SeanFlynn: I'm hearing 127 Hours described as both hit and flop--on a cost vs. return basis, which is it? Will Oscar push turn it into profit or bring more costs?

  • seanflynn | January 30, 2011 9:24 AMReply

    Hi everyone - those of you who go to the Envelope.com will recognize my name - I post a lot over there, including giviing a weekly reaction to specialized BO.

    Anne has suggested that I post my writings here as well to supplement the thorough reporting she, Anthony and others do.

    I am a decades-long veteran in the trenches of both specialized and wider distribution/exhibition, and as such have the jaundiced, occassionally cynical but hopefully fair viewpoint of someone whose job depends on reacting quickly and accurately to what I see in weekend grosses. That is sort of the attitute in view here.

    I am reprinting this straight from Theenvelope.com. Since my writings there are sort of a narrative developed over many months, some of it will likely seem abrupt and in too much shorthand. I'll be happy to respond to any questions, defend assertions and engage in any sort of civil debate other posters desire.

    With that, here goes:


    1/28-30 specialized/awards BO analysis:

    No nig surprises post nominations.

    There is a huge amount of adult-oriented film business, mainly going to the top films, with a lot of decent films withering in the vines with the amount of competetion.

    Hidden in the weeds is that No Strings Attached comes in #2, only down 32%. Not that this film will have a lot of impact on the best actress race, but fair to say it won't hurt Portman.

    The King's Speech went to about its widest level - over 2500 theatres - and came in 5th. It's not a new release, it has been fairly wide before, but it did have the most ads and of course the nominations boost. They are going to do $11 million for the weekend - which is impressive, although the 4300 PSA indicates this includes a lot of weaker theatres that won't hold until the Oscars.

    I thought that there was a small chance this would do much better, and might even hit $100 million in another couple weeks. It will have to wait a bit longer. But $150 million is still a possibility for this.

    True Grit - week six - another $7.6 million, $148 million total. Now almost double what The Fighter has done. It's got a way to go still.

    Black Swan - $5.1 million, $91 million total. Unless as rumored Fox rushes out the DVD post-Oscars, this should easily pass $125 million, and then some.

    The Fighter - $4 million, up to $78 million. Paramount spent a bunch of money on TV, and the grosses held well. Still at a 2100 PSA, it is ending its profitable stage in theatres.

    127 Hours - At its widest - 916 theatres, up from under 100. Fox SL spent some real money, did $2 million, which means they likely will lose money for the week. It is now up to $13.4 million, and likely ends up as the 9th best grossing BP nominee.

    Blue Valentine - $1.2 million in 415, up 173. Mediocre PSA of 2814, up to $6 million. Weinstein would be a bit careless to add many more prints; most likely they shuffle around the ones they have.

    The Company Men - $688,000 in 211 (doubled), PSA an even more mediocre $3300 (remember even fewer theatres, so PSA should be higher). Why this is out there against all the Oscar stuff is a real question.

    The Way Back - $579,000 in 595, PSA under 1000, total $2.3 million. This is basically done for.

    Biutiful - $461,000 in 57, PSA 8100, at best just OK. A really decline in appeal for Inarittu since Babel, yet far better than it would have been without the Oscar connection.

    The Social Network - actually did $450,000 in 367 theatres, up to $96 million.

    Another Year - $330,000 in 91 (doubled theatres), low 3600 PSA, total $1.1 million.

    Barney's Version - $251,000 in 39 (up 23), at this level of theatres, $6400 PSA is not impressive.

    Rabbit Hole - This remains truly sad. Up to 124 theatres, $167,000, PSA an awful 1347, up to $1.5 million.

    The Illusionist - up to 25 theatres, so-so PSA 5400.

    Kaboom - The Greg Araki Sundance (also VOD) film did $14,000 at one NY theatre.

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