Oscars 2012: The Buzz And The Biz

Last year I gave my analysis almost five weeks after the Oscars. This year, thanks to my slacking off, I do it six and a half weeks after the golden boys were given out. My hiatus however did give me a better example on how this year’s Academy Awards contenders fared at the box office.

Once again I’d like to thank Box Office Mojo for my charts of reference. Here are this year’s charts:

-2012 Best Picture Nominees

-2012 Nominees: All Categories

Remember how last year there was only one Best Picture nominee that made over $100 million? The Help? This year had a better turn of things as six of the nine Best Picture contenders had made over $100 million. This is the most in the four years since the Academy expanded their Best Picture nominations past five. This was one year where Oscar contention attracted people to the theatres rather than the opposite last year.

Before the Academy Awards nominations were announced, there were four films that had made more than $100 million: Lincoln, Django Unchained, Argo and Les Miserables. Movies that already completed their main theater run or their run was dying down were Beasts Of The Southern Wild and Argo. Beasts was a summer release and Argo was released back in October. All the other seven nominees were released between the beginning of November and just before New Year’s Eve. Lincoln was already the highest-grossing of the Best Picture nominees as it looked like the best bet to win. There was strong box-office buzz already not just for Lincoln but Django Unchained, Les Miserables and the Life Of Pi. There was however quiet but ever growing buzz surrounding Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty but neither had amassed even $40 million by nominations day.

Between the nominations and the wins, the strong buzz of Lincoln, Django Unchained, Les Miz and Life Of Pi continued but was rather calm as all four of those pre-awards buzzers grossed in between $20-50 million. Life Of Pi managed to gross enough to become the fifth Best Picture nominee this year to pass the $100 million mark. A reboost of Argo after it had already made $110 million before the nominations helped it acquire an additional $19 million before awards night. A re-release of Beasts Of The Southern Wild which had finished its original theater run by September helped it earn an additional $1.3 million.

However the two films that gained the most between nominations morning and awards night was Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty with both grossing an additional $71 million and $86 million respectively. Partly because of the Best Actress chances of both lead actresses. Also in part because of its own factors: Playbook because of Jennifer Lawrence’s growing stardom and Zero because of its apparent fearlessness in touching on the the search for Osama. Zero had the biggest gross between nominations and awards with $86 million but it’s not to say it didn’t have a bumpy road. During that time there were smear campaigns from some of Hollywood’s most outspoken liberals about its nonpartisan depiction of war torture. Some say Zero could have grossed more than $100 million during that time had it not been for the mudslinging.

The six Best Picture nominees that grossed $100 million or more this year all did it before Oscar night with Silver Linings Playbook becoming the sixth and last passing that mark just before Oscar weekend. The Oscar results did play in a bit in terms of each film’s post-awards gross. Life Of Pi which won four Oscars has grossed an additional $10.5 million, Silver Linings Playbook continued to go strong grossing an additional $22.7 million and Best Picture winner Argo also got a post-awards boost with an additional $6 million. Yeah, winning the Oscar can give an extra boost. Unfortunately none of the other movies were able to gross even $5 million after the awards. Most noticeably affected by the post-awards grosses were Lincoln which was a heavy favorite to win Best Picture and Zero Dark Thirty because of its win of only a single technical Oscar. To think Zero missed becoming the seventh Best Picture nominee to pass the $100 million mark by just a few million.

One thing also to take notice of is the gross of Amour. Yes, that was the one Best Picture nominee I had not yet touched upon. This was one of those rare years when a foreign language film earns a Best Picture nomination. Sometimes those films would earn a huge boost at the box office because of its Oscar buzz. It worked for Il Postino, Life Is Beautiful and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It didn’t work so well for Amour as it only grossed $6.7 million, less than the $7 million made by last year’s Best Foreign Language Film winner A Separation. Nevertheless the Oscar buzz for Amour’s five nominations did help in achieving a good gross for a foreign language film. Nothing out of the ordinary.

So there you have it. The Oscars and its impact on the box office results. Last year’s Best Picture nominees were mostly the type to attract a modest sized crowd. This year’s were mostly the types to win well-sized crowds. Each year paints a different picture. Makes you wonder what picture 2013’s Best Picture nominees will paint.

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