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Friday, February 25, 2011

Oscar box office

Suzanne said that this was the year of the "small" movie, which is reflected in the Oscar nominations.  I would have to agree.  Except for Inception, which, though intended to be a "blockbuster" didn't fit neatly into a genre, and Toy Story 3, which I don't really count, there wasn't anything in the 10 Best Picture slots that could be considered anything other than smallish.  Which is typical, of course.

What's fascinating is that several of these movies did much better commercially than the filmmakers had any reason to expect.  I heard Natalie Portman comment on this with regards to Black Swan.  That is certainly true of The Fighter, True Grit and especially The King's Speech - both Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush have marveled at how much audiences have connected with a story that has none of the presumed qualities required for a blockbuster - no special effects, no sex, no explosions.

I got curious to see some evidence, so I checked BoxOfficeMojo.com.  Here's the reported budgets and reported worldwide box office for the Best Picture contenders:

The King's Speech    $15M    $250M
Black Swan              $13M    $225M
The Fighter               $25M   $110M
True Grit                   $38M    $214M
Social Network        $40M    $220M
127 Hours               $18M    $43M
Kids are Alright        $4M    $30M
Winter's Bone          $2M    $8M

Supposedly you can double the budget to account for marketing (to get a more accurate sense of what what a movie really "costs"), which is probably more true of some of the these than others.But even if you double them all, virtually all these movies were substantially in the black.  The Social Network was the most expensive, but it still made a very good profit.  Even Winter's Bone made an excellent return-on-investment, though not as spectacular as some.

As a person who bemoans the lack of middle budget movies (movies for "grown-ups"!) this financial success is very good news, because hopefully it will lead to greater support for these types of story- and character-driven movies.  They may not make the kind of money that Toy Story 3 and Avatar made, but they're a lot smaller risk as well.  And bonus - you might get a fancy award on top of your impressive balance sheet!

Maybe most gratifying this year - it's so much harder for the naysayers to assert that the Oscars are awards for movies "nobody sees"!!  Take that, fan boys!



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