What is an Oscar Worth at the Box Office?

It’s widely accepted that, with the right marketing push, an Oscar nomination can propel a moderately-budgeted film at the box office in a way that little else can — save for more money. But exactly how much of the success of past Oscar-nominated films has been due to their nominations? And how much more do the films that win an Oscar make over the rest of the nominees? Is that gold statue actually worth its weight at the box office, or are studios dropping millions of dollars to promote their Oscar contenders without much to show for it? Find out the answer to all these questions after the break.

Attempting to get to the bottom of how much an Academy Award is actually worth, BoxOfficeQuant sorted through the nominees and winners from the past decade and configured their box office findings (through a series of graphs) based on award count, type of award and date relative to the Oscar ceremony. And to better gauge the value an Oscar win has on a film after the ceremony, they expanded their sample another decade while finding the difference between the expected box office revenue and actual revenue.

As for what the graphs tell us, there are a few interesting things to be gleaned:

Between 2000 and 2009, Best Picture winners have grossed on average $143 million while nominees have grossed $110 million. An estimate average of $14 million of the former gross can be considered a direct result of winning the Oscar.

Secondly, the Oscar winners made most of their revenue in the 5 months prior to the award ceremony, peaking heavily at the 2 1/2 month mark — around Christmas. While the nominees’ revenue also escalated around that time, the bulk of their revenue was generated earlier, during Summer — a time when the winners weren’t doing quite so successfully.

Lastly, movies with 3 Oscar wins or nominations made the most at the box office, with revenue progressively lessening with 4 and 5 wins/noms. Bizarre.

One note: For the two non-category-specific graphs, I’m not really sure what benefit there is in incorporating the box office grosses of nominees for the technical awards like Art Direction, Makeup, Costume Design, and Visual Effects (which is guaranteed to have a high box office since it’s always the tentpole FX-heavy releases that get nominated). That aspect of the study probably skews the results unfavorably. Just a minor nitpick.

Personally, I’d be curious to see someone measure the effect the Academy Awards have on home video sales, particularly to learn what a Best Picture winner rakes in compared to the rest of the nominees. I went to pick up a Blu-ray copy of 127 Hours from my local Best Buy the day it was released, and every copy had already been snatched up. The next day, the same was true of Best Buy’s 18 nearest other locations. Keeping in mind that this is a movie that failed to even surpass its modest budget while it was in theaters, clearly the Oscar buzz is doing the film some favors. (That, or some people just really want to know how the hell such a dreadful Oscar host got nominated for Best Actor.)

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