The 2023 Oscar Nominees For Best Picture: A Box Office Breakdown

It's peak awards season, as the 2023 Oscar nominations have been revealed. As usual, the Academy Awards will be presented in March, honoring many of the great films released last year. We say "many" because, as is all-too-often the case, some widely acclaimed and deserving movies were snubbed. We're thinking of you, "Nope" and "RRR." In any event, the Academy did showcase a pretty intriguing mix of films when it came to the night's biggest award: Best Picture.

In a big, mixed year, we've got everything from wildly underseen critical darlings to not one, but two of literally the biggest movies of all time. It should make things very interesting as the race for the most coveted prize in all of cinema approaches. We're going to take a look at this year's nominees and examine the box office haul of all 10 films, what it tells us, and how it compares to last year. Let's dive in.

The nominees by the numbers

Before going over the numbers, here are some quick, important notes.

 First, one of the Best Picture nominees was released by a major streaming service: Netflix. This has been commonplace for the last handful of years — just look at "CODA" winning Best Picture for Apple. Any streaming movie that is nominated is given an awards-qualifying run in theaters, but that means the box office numbers were either not reported or amount to next-to-nothing. Aside from that, we'll be looking at global box office, not just domestic, with Box Office Mojo as the source of the information. And with the nominations out, some re-releases are sure to happen and renewed interest in some of these titles is a given. So the numbers are sure to go up between now and the big night.

With that out of the way, let's dig into the numbers, shall we?

  • "All Quiet On the Western Front" – (Netflix) N/A
  • "Avatar: The Way of Water" – (Disney/20th Century Studios) $2.02 billion
  • "The Banshees of Inisherin" – (Disney/Searchlight Pictures) – $29 million
  • "Elvis" – (Warner Bros.) $287.3 million
  • "Everything Everywhere All at Once" – (A24) $104.1 million
  • "The Fabelmans" – (Universal Pictures) $21.6 million
  • "Tar" – (Universal/Focus Features) $7.1 million
  • "Top Gun: Maverick" – (Paramount Pictures) $1.48 billion
  • "Triangle of Sadness" – (NEON) $21.7 million
  • "Women Talking" – (MGM/United Artists) $1.1 million

What the numbers tell us

The first thing that stands out, for a variety of reasons, is that this year's field of nominees made a lot more money when compared to last year's nominees. Let's not forget that the 2022 ceremony was honoring films released in 2021, the first real year of recovery in the industry since the pandemic. The box office was on far shakier ground. To that end, when the nominations were announced last year, the Best Picture nominees hadn't collectively cleared $600 million at the global box office. This year? We're in the billions, largely thanks to the astounding success of both "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Avatar: The Way of Water."

However, it is important to look at the fact that we also have hits like "Everything Everywhere All at Once" and "Elvis" in the mix this year. Last year, the only certifiable theatrical hit was "Dune." To that end, we had three Best Picture nominees last year ("CODA," "Don't Look Up," "The Power of the Dog") strictly from streaming services, while the Warner Bros. releases ("Dune," "King Richard") were released on HBO Max as well as in theaters. Last year was far more streaming-heavy, as the only strict streaming release in this year's field is "All Quiet on the Western Front."

The main takeaway is that not only was 2022 clearly much better overall at the box office, but the Academy was more than happy to look to more popular films this year when assembling the nominees. Heck, even "The Banshees of Inisherin" was pretty successful for what was ostensibly a dark arthouse films about friends having a big, ugly breakup. The only real financial duds here were "Tar" and "Women Talking," sad to say, with Steven Spielberg's "The Fabelmans" kind of caught in the middle.

Will this get more people to tune in?

One key problem that the Academy needs to address is viewership for the telecast. To be more specific, they need to regain interest with the general public, as the last two broadcasts have been by far the lowest-rated in the history of the Oscars. 2021's ceremony brought in a record low 10.4 million viewers, with 2022 doing better-but-still-not-great, with 15.36 million people tuning in. Prior to that, the low was in 2020, with 23.6 million. Viewership is trending down — and the slide is happening rather quickly.

This year, though, movies like "Avatar: The Way of Water" and "Top Gun: Maverick" are both up for Best Picture, among many other prizes. Not to mention hits like "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" scoring nods in other categories. So the question is, can the inclusion of more popular films lead to an increase in viewership? It certainly can't hurt matters, that's for sure. Especially given that we also have a movie like "Everything Everywhere All at Once" that is incredibly popular with people who are A) likely to tune into the Oscars and B) head to the theater to buy a ticket for that kind of movie.

The other question is, will the nominations boost ticket sales for the other nominees? Can "Women Talking" generate more interest now? Will "Tar" be released in more theaters again against a presumed rise in interest? Could "The Fabelmans" now get some legs that it desperately needs to justify the investment by Universal? With the much healthier moviegoing numbers we've seen in early 2023 already, the rising tide could very well lift these other acclaimed boats as well, so to speak.

The 95th Academy Awards are set to take place on Sunday, March 12 on ABC.