When James Cameron’s Titanic — the top-grossing greatest image winner of all time with $2.2 billion in worldwide ticket gross sales, together with $600.8 million domestically — received the Academy Award for greatest image in 1998, greater than 55.3 million viewers tuned in to the Oscar telecast. Other field workplace hits vying for the glory included As Good as It Gets, which earned greater than $148 million domestically, and Good Will Hunting, with $138.4 million.
A yr later, Oscar rankings started a decades-long precipitous decline as smaller, adult-skewing fare from specialty distributors started dominating the very best image contest. In mid-2009 — the ultimate straw was The Dark Knight being snubbed — Academy members have been so involved that then-president Sid Ganis expanded the class to as many as 10 movies in hopes of together with studio occasion pics which are really being seen by tens of thousands and thousands of moviegoers.
Did it work? Yes and no. The Hurt Locker — the lowest-grossing greatest image winner in fashionable instances with a home cume of simply $17 million — beat Cameron’s Avatar in a historic upset in March 2010. (Avatar stays the top-grossing film in historical past, incomes north of $2.9 billion worldwide and $785.1 million domestically, together with rereleases.) Other populist studio releases competing that yr included The Blind Side, however Academy voters caught to their indie inclinations.
For the primary time in over 20 years of the nominee area being principally dominated by smaller specialty or studio titles, this yr’s greatest image race may see the return of studio blockbusters with a number of billion-dollar nominees and, ideally, an enormous spike in rankings. Paramount’s Top Gun: Maverick, which has grossed north of $1.4 billion globally, together with an enormous $760 million domestically, is taken into account a shoo-in for a high nom. Likewise, Ryan Coogler’s upcoming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Cameron’s long-awaited sequel Avatar: The Way of Water are tipped to compete.
If so, the mixed grosses for the very best image nominees may attain unprecedented ranges, by way of each home and international ticket gross sales. The first Black Panther earned north of $700 million domestically and $1.4 billion globally, and each Wakanda Forever and The Way of Water are primed for field workplace domination. Additionally, A24’s indie sensation Everything Everywhere All at Once has already grossed north of $70 million within the U.S. and $100 million worldwide, whereas Warner Bros. awards contender Elvis has grossed greater than $150 million domestically and $286 million globally.
“It’s the Academy Awards, not the box office awards. But when quality movies and blockbuster revenues intersect, it creates a perfect storm of a greater collective interest in the movies themselves while adding a layer of popular interest for the telecast itself,” says Comscore field workplace analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “The reasoning behind the expansion of the potential best picture nominees to 10 contenders was to broaden the appeal of the Oscars beyond just the esoteric and presumably increase the number of movie fans who have a vested interest in the presentation and outcome of the awards.”
Dergarabedian rightly notes that the 2019 greatest image race was populated by a wholesome mixture of main studio blockbusters (Black Panther, A Star Is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody) and specialised movies (The Favourite, Vice), amongst others (with Green Book the winner). “The eight contenders generated over $1 billion in domestic revenue, but that was more of an anomaly than a trend, with most years offering mostly sub-$100 million box office performers.”
There is greater than sufficient proof to counsel a correlation between Oscar telecast rankings and the field workplace efficiency of flicks going after the highest prize. Some 29.6 million viewers tuned in to the 2019 telecast — nonetheless not ultimate, in fact, however up from 26.5 million in 2018. Viewership fell once more to 23.6 million in 2020 (when Parasite triumphed); through the COVID-19 pandemic, rankings plummeted to an all-time low after the collapse of theatrical attendance in 2020: 10.4 million viewers in 2021 (Nomadland received) and 16.6 million viewers final yr (CODA).
Looking additional again, the Oscars, which have lengthy aired on ABC, took an enormous hit in 2008, falling from 40.2 million viewers the yr earlier than to 31.8 million. Specialty distributors dominated the class, save for Warner Bros.’ grownup drama Michael Clayton. The different films have been No Country for Old Men — which received — There Will Be Blood, Juno and Atonement.
Perhaps greater than anybody, Harvey Weinstein reshaped the Oscar sport in realizing that high nominations have been an important advertising and marketing instrument. Miramax’s Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan through the 1999 telecast in what was an enormous upset. The former had earned $36.4 million domestically when it was nominated; it added one other $64 million. Conversely, Saving Private Ryan was already a longtime earnings winner, having grossed $195 million by the point it was nominated (it might add one other $21.2 million).
Collectively, the specialty distributors and their awards consultants started attractive Oscar voters to help films that didn’t have the advertising and marketing and distribution would possibly of a significant Hollywood studio.
“Independent films were able to bask in the glow that an Academy Award nomination afforded smaller films and lesser-known filmmakers, and this is a wonderful benefit that should not be sidelined by a fixation with higher ratings through the nomination of blockbuster-style films,” says Dergarabedian. “Hopefully this year’s crop will strike a perfect balance between worthy films of large and small scale; that’s a win-win scenario for Oscar.”
Nov. 15, 9 a.m.: Updated with Elvis field workplace grosses.
This story first appeared within the Nov. 9 situation of The Hollywood Reporter journal. Click here to subscribe.