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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The "Oscar Bounce"

Up until 2005's Crash, every Best Film winner from 1997-2006 had gone over $100 million, in large part due to the boost in ticket sales from the lead up to and post-victory bounce of Oscar night.

It's called the "Oscar Bounce," and according to a 2001 study by Colby College economics professor Randy Nelson, a Best Picture nomination can add nearly $11 million in ticket sales for a film between the day the nominations are announced and the Oscar telecast. Late-year releases up for best picture can bring in more than $30 million after nominations and awards, according to the Colby College study. The study also found that Best Actor and Best Actress nominations could add an estimated $1 million to the box office total.

Just take a look at this list of Best Picture winners. Since 1996 only one Best Film winner, "Crash," failed to break through $100 million at the box office, and that was largely due to the film releasing on DVD well before the Oscars ceremony. 1996's epic-length war drama "The English Patient" grossed $78.6 million.

The Departed (2006) $132.2m
Crash (2005) $54.5m
Million Dollar Baby (2004) $100.5m
Lord of the Rings (2003) $377m
Chicago (2002) $170.6m
A Beautiful Mind (2001) $170.7m
Gladiator (2000) $187.7m
American Beauty (1999) $130m
Shakespeare in Love (1998) $100.3m
Titanic (1997) $600.7m

So where does this leave the current crop of Best Picture nominees, and in particular Best Pic winner No Country For Old Men? Well, given the fact that No Country will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 11th, that doesn't give the film much time in theaters to bring its $70 million domestic cume anywhere close to $100 million, but if you're counting foreign totals, the film has already amassed over $120 million worldwide.

Did the near-cancellation of the Oscars or the lengthy writers' strike mute what would have been huge press for No Country and an easy march towards $100 million? It was already the fifth highest grossing R-rated film released in 2007, but breaking the film into time increments, No Country earned $46 million in its first two months of release, usually the core period for theatrical gross. With quickly diminishing weekend returns, it's quite possible that released in any other time, the film probably would have bowed out at around $50 million. The film has grossed another $24 million in the seven weeks since, and most likely will add another $5-10 million to its domestic run. That means thanks to the Awards season (even with the strike) the Miramax release will have added another 40% to its total from the 8 week mark.

Any way you look at it, No Country got a nice bump during the Awards season, and had it not been for a writer's strike hogging the headlines and a canceled Golden Globes, it's quite conceivable the film could have made a legitimate run at $100 million.

Best Picture nominees, domestic gross:
JUNO, $125.2m

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