Oscars 2011: Box Office Figures

I was looking back over last year’s articles and saw that I wrote one about how the Academy likes voting for a film that’s made money. Which is generally true. Though The Hurt Locker being one of (or maybe it’s the lowest, I forget) the lowest-grossing Best Picture winners of all time shows that it’s not always the case. But generally, I think I found (and you can read that article here) that most of the time, the film that won Best Picture was in the top half (or top 3, when there were 5 nominees) of the nominees in terms of gross. I didn’t actually read through that entire article, but I’m pretty sure that was the gist of it.

I mostly wanted to use that as an excuse to check in with how this year’s nominees are doing, box office-wise. I haven’t really done that in a while. I’m curious to see how they’re doing. So, according to Box Office Mojo (which has it plastered on the front page), here are the grosses of all the Best Picture nominees as of right this second:

The Help — $169.7 million

War Horse — $79 million

The Descendants — $78.5 million

Moneyball — $75.6 million

Hugo — $69.4 million

Midnight in Paris — $56.6 million

The Artist — $31.9 million

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close — $31.2 million

The Tree of Life — $13.3 million

That’s interesting. The Artist is not the lowest. But still, that might put it below The Hurt Locker. I feel like The Hurt Locker had at least $35 million at the box office by the time it won. Hmm.

Also of note: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has only pulled in $23.3 million. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, however, has pulled in $101 million, which means, were it nominated, it would have been the second biggest hit on that list. Nice going, Academy.

Still, interesting to know that almost none of the Best Picture winners were huge financial hits. They were relative hits, since many of them had budgets that were on the low end. The only one that’s a financial failures on that list is Hugo. Everything else is doing okay.

Last year — the Best Pictures had five nominees that made over $100 million, and The Social Network was at almost $97 million. And The Fighter was just below $90 million. So only 3 of the 10 nominees made under $85 million (they all made under $21 million, but still, 7 out of 10 films made $88 million or more). This year, only one of them hit that number. That’s interesting.


3 responses

  1. This is my first visit to your blog, so I don’t know if you have other posts on this topic, but I thought the general vibe of Best Picture nominated films was leaning more and more towards small, independent films? Shakespeare in Love comes to mind, because I think that was the beginning of the trend.

    The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire and now The Descendants are also obviously companions in the small, indie film genre (the latter, despite George Clooney’s appearance in it.) I suppose we should also consider The Artist to be a small indie film too, except, like Shakespeare in Love, they’ve got the major clout (and don’t forget money!) of Bob and Harvey W. behind it.

    I just put up a post on my Oscar Predictions – Sort Of… I said sort of because overall I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about this year’s crop of films, and many of them I didn’t bother to go see. I’m not alone, of course. Many people have been “voting” to use Netflicks more due to the rabid increase in movie ticket prices, with gimmicks -yes, I said it, gimmicks- like 3D jacking up prices even further. (It might have been one thing Hugo suffered from on the box office returns, by the way…)

    Just some film food for thought…what do you think?

    February 26, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    • That’s the general vibe, but if you look at the numbers (which are here:, you’d actually be surprised at how many of them are legit moneymakers. The reason there’s the idea that they like smaller films is that smaller films generally have less studio interference and aren’t, to an extent, watered down to appeal to more people and aren’t meant to perform. Therefore, they tend to be the more artistic ones. But in actuality, what tends to get nominated (and I never really bought into the whole Box Office argument anyway, I just go by the trends after the fact. I’ve never guessed a nominee based on its grosses) are films that have generally been successful. It’s strange. But even with The Hurt Locker, five of those nominees had grossed over $100 million before they were nominated. It tends to change each year. It’s just interesting to see what they respond to, since very rarely does the film that ends up winning have such a low box office total. Outside of The Artist (assuming it wins) and The Hurt Locker, and to some extent No Country for Old Men, all of the films in recent years made money. (Well, maybe not Crash…) Sure, Slumdog made money after it was nominated, but it still made a lot of money. It’s interesting to see that these films haven’t done that, even with the benefit of nominations.

      Another reason these films haven’t done well is because of the apparent tastes of the moviegoing public. Only one of the nominees was remotely challenging to an audience, and people still didn’t go see them. It amazes me that stuff like The Vow and The Devil Inside can make so much money on their opening weekends, yet these films don’t in their entire box office runs (many of them, anyway), especially when people complain about the stuff nominated for the awards. I think people complaining about ticket prices and 3D are really just looking for an easy scapegoat. Hugo was shown in both 2D and 3D (not to mention the fact that anyone who did see it in 3D would undoubtedly say that it’s the best 3D put to the screen since and including Avatar. Calling it a gimmick is a bit narrow-minded, just because Hugo is one of the films not using it as a gimmick. The idea that it’s a gimmick is almost like the characters in The Help calling Civil Rights a “passing phase”), and ticket prices have been relatively the same for a while now. Sure, they’ve steadily gone up since 1995 (I wouldn’t really call it rapid), but that still doesn’t answer why films like those I mentioned up there can pull in such strong numbers and films endorsed by the Academy cannot. I think it might have something to do with an anti-intellectual bias that most of the country has. People see these Oscar films and think, “Oh, it’s just those small, independent films,” and don’t want to see them. I go through this every year with my parents. The films come out and I tell them how great they are, and they say, “Oh, that sounds stupid.” And then a year later, once all the films are on HBO, they say, “Oh, I caught that movie the other day,” completely forgetting the conversation we had about it a year earlier, and say, “It was good.” The idea that people don’t want to pay for these movies because of ticket prices or 3D surcharges is ridiculous. I think that people really have a mental bias against a film that they think will challenge them and would rather go out to see things that won’t. Take The Artist. The Artist is a normal film that just happens to be told as a silent. And when people hear that, they think, “Oh, I don’t want to see that.” Because it doesn’t have robots blowing stuff up and car chases. Apparently. And then, in a year, when The Artist is on Netflix and on television, people are gonna watch it and enjoy it. Because it’s a very likable film. And I think the average moviegoing public has some sort of inherent bias against it simply because it’s “that French film nobody saw.” I don’t know if it’s that the majority of this country is incapable of enjoying a movie without car chases or stupid comedy or if they just don’t want to, but apparently stuff that requires a little bit of an attention span to follow is considered anathema nowadays. I generally leave the people who have no desire to see films like this alone, the way I leave Tea Party Republicans alone. They’re set in their ways and won’t engage in rational discussion, so there’s no point in arguing with them. And sadly, it seems like those are the majority of the moviegoing public (them and teenagers).

      February 26, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      • Haha, I see you’re not short on opinions. :-) Okay, maybe I was playing to the crowd a bit when I made the comment about Hugo and 3D. The truth is I didn’t see the film (I can save you the skewering you might provide based on that comment…) so I have no real business making comments about movies I didn’t see (it usually doesn’t stop me.)

        You mentioned a movie in your comment above that I really, really HATED from a plot and acting perspective: Avatar. Yes, it’s the highest grossing movie of all time, with something like $2 BILLION in international box office or some such. The plot was…laughable. It was a little bit too much American Indian princess meets Likeable White Guy and bad things happen for me. The special effects were incredible, and the 3D was very pleasant to watch. I’m glad that all that money at least generated a new technology (performance capture I think it’s called?) for the industry. To that I say bravo. But the movie plot was soooooo drawn out and boring. I remember leaning over to my friend and saying, why are we following them forever and ever through this forest? Oh yeah, because of the special effects. Bleh.

        I’m with you on the whole mainstream audience rejection of challenging indie/foreign/etc. films, by the way. I have to imagine Hotel Rwanda didn’t have a huge audience, but Don Cheedle was triumphant. For that matter, Forest Whitaker’s performance in The Last King of Scotland (and Ghost Dog, and The Crying Game, and … you get the idea) was nothing short of masterful. Do people go to see those, or would they be more likely to see Invictus with Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman in a feel-good sports related movie that makes overcoming apartheid more palatable to audiences? I’m sure you can tell from my comment what I think. It’s not that Invictus was a bad movie, but it was no Hotel Rwanda.

        Okay, your turn.

        February 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm

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