It’s usually interesting to check the box office chart in the weeks following the Oscar nominations to see how a Best Picture nod boosts a film’s commercial performance. There Will Be Blood was perhaps the biggest benefactor last year, boasting a $5,500 per-theater average that elevated the film to the top 10 despite playing in fewer than 900 movie houses.
But even though Slumdog Millionaire continues to do well as it expands (and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was already a hit), there’s no real “Best Picture Bump” for most of the nominees this time. After a record-breaking few weeks in urban areas, Milk doesn’t seem to have gained similar traction as it moves out to the ‘burbs. The Reader still lags behind Revolutionary Road, despite being the film that provided Kate Winslet with her only Oscar nomination. And when Frost/Nixon first went into wide release 10 days ago after scoring five big nods, its per-theater average barely topped that of the third weekend of Bride Wars.
So what’s the problem? Is it because there are so many other high-profile award shows these days that the Oscar nominations almost come as an afterthought? Or is it that many of this year’s Best Picture nominees are simply unappealing to the average moviegoer? Regardless, it’s quite telling that the combined box office take of the five Best Picture nominees so far ($233 million) isn’t even half of the $532 million Oscar also-ran The Dark Knight has grossed.
UPDATE: I just noticed David Poland over at MovieCityNews blogged about this very same topic yesterday. I guess I’m a bit slow.