I'm not sure if you are aware, but I'm not a fan of the Academy Awards. They're pretentious and self-important, and they often award films that are truly depressing and pessimistic. This would all be forgivable if the actual awards show were at least entertaining, but no- The Oscars Awards is the single most boring, drawn-out telecast on TV each year (and that includes American Idol results shows). By the time they finally arrive, at the very end of Awards Season, you can already predict each and every winner, and I think the fact that everybody fawns over them so much makes me dislike them a little bit, as well. That's not to say that many of the films that are rewarded are not good, I just find The Academy to be an extremely overrated entity.
But oh well, I'm a box office blogger, and I'm committed to serving you with analysis about how much money movies are making, and whether or not I care, The Oscars (and other awards shows) definitely mater when it comes to how much money a movie makes. If you need an example, look to 2004's Million Dollar Baby or 2007's Juno, two films that never could have broken the $100 million barrier without the awards boost. It works the other way around too. Oscar voters can't vote on movies that they haven't seen, so earning more at the box office can definitely contribute to a movie's chances at a nomination and win. Because of these factors, I thought it might be useful to delve into the performance of the current releases that have been labeled as front-runners in the Oscar race. All of these films, with the very notable exception of Benjamin Button, are either in limited release or in the process of expanding.
Among Oscar bait, the most impressive performance may look like David Fincher's The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, which certainly had a great opening weekend, but that film came with Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and a ton of promotion. To me, when I look at this weekend's numbers, I am without a doubt most impressed by Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire. Even after expanding into a release of 614 theaters, it was still able to to earn a fantastic per theater average of $7,006. When you consider the fact that Slumdog Millionaire has been playing for seven weeks, that number is even more amazing. Meanwhile, films like The Reader, Milk, and Frost/Nixon are newer and have lower theater counts, but still have smaller per theater averages. Now, these films aren't doing poorly, they just aren't having the kind of Cinderella run that Slumdog Millionaire is having. To be clear, audiences are in love with this movie, its reviews are amazing, and it's chugging along at the box office. I attribute a lot of its success to the fact that it has a happy ending. People love seeing an awards-caliber film that leaves them feeling hopeful and happy, and Fox Searchlight (who was distributing Juno this time last year) understands that. I wish it all the success in the world.
On the complete other end of the spectrum is Revolutionary Road, a movie about miserable people being miserable. The reunion of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio is attractive, and enough for a great opening gross from just three theaters, but the story will limit its potential tremendously, both awards-wise (not even Oscar-voters are that depressed, but I expect some acting nods) and financially. Meanwhile, there's The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky's critically beloved film starring Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei. This movie falls somewhere between Slumdog Millionaire and Revolutionary Road in terms of tone and box office potential. Even with incredible reviews, I think the story may be a bit too sad for this to truly break out, but the ultimately heroic spirit of Mickey Rourke's super-buzzy performance will keep earning this one earning money at a slow burn for some time. It's started off very strongly. Finally, Clint Eastwood's drama Gran Torino has started off very strongly, but its reviews have not been as good as everyone was expecting. It will be interesting to see whether its massive buzz can overcome reviews that, for Eastwood, are just "okay." In conclusion, even though I'm still looking for Wall-E to take Best Picture, here are the weekend's results for what I'm calling Oscar bait:
Oscar-Seeking Titles for December 26-28 2008
|#||Movie Title||Wk|| 3-Day Gross||Theaters||PTA|| Total ||RT Reviews |
|3||The Curious Case|
Of Benjamin Button
|10 ||Doubt||3||$5,339,742||1267||$4,214||$8,484,863||76% |
|13||Slumdog Millionaire||7||$4,301,870||614||$7,006||$19,476,395||94% |
|15 ||Gran Torino||3||$2,322,781||84||$27,652||$4,220,824||73% |
|16 ||Milk||5||$1,762,638||311||$5,668||$13,533,585||93% |
|18 ||Frost/Nixon||4||$1,355,186||205||$6,611||$3,539,426||90% |
|21 ||The Reader||3||$664,013||116||$5,724||$1,243,690||57%|
|30||Rachel Getting Married||13||$131,440||65||$2,022||$10,017,383||87%|
What do you think about the Academy Awards? Do they matter to you, or do judge movies for yourself? Is anyone with me on the Wall-E train? Be a critic in the comments!