Oscar winners slipping at the box office re-redux

On Sunday, Juno became the first and probably only one of 2007′s Best Picture nominees to gross over $100 million — and that tells me I should probably follow up the posts I wrote in 2005 and 2006 on the relationship between the Oscars and the box office.

2005 marked the first time since 1996 that the Best Picture winner did not gross at least $100 million, the first time since 1985 that not one of the Best Picture nominees grossed at least $100 million, and the first time in living memory that the Best Picture winner was not one of the Top 25 grossing films of its year. (In fact, the winning film for that year, Paul Haggis’s Crash, ranked way, way down at #49.)

2006 brought a return to Hollywood form with the Best Picture victory of Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, which grossed $132.4 million and ranked #15 for the year.

But now, once again, the nominees pretty much all come from the “independent” or “arthouse” segment of the industry — with the exception of Michael Clayton, which was produced on a low budget and failed to find a very big audience, so it might just as well be an “independent” or “arthouse” movie anyway. Here are the nominees’ current grosses and box-office rankings, as of yesterday:

  1. Juno — $100,742,315 — 27th
  2. No Country for Old Men — $51,956,842 — 48th
  3. Michael Clayton — $41,847,879 — 62nd
  4. Atonement — $38,158,571 — 70th
  5. There Will Be Blood — $15,167,802 — 123rd

Of course, these totals can and will change, and the rankings of the various films will no doubt slide up a bit. In fact, all five nominees were in this past weekend‘s Top 16, and only one of those films — Michael Clayton — was a re-issue; the rest have been playing more or less steadily, gradually building their respective audiences, since they were released one or two or three months ago.

Anything can happen between now and February 24, when the Academy Awards ceremony takes place, but right now it looks like No Country for Old Men will win the top prize — given that it won the DGA award and the SAG ensemble award last weekend — and if that turns out to be the case, then this could very well be the second time in my lifetime that the Oscar for Best Picture went to a film of unusually limited commercial appeal. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course!

I’ll copy the list that I compiled two years ago below, and I’ll add this year’s winner after it is announced next month.

2007 — 40 — $64.6 million — No Country for Old Men
2006 — 15 — $132.4 million — The Departed
2005 — 49 — $53.4 million — Crash
2004 — 24 — $100.5 million — Million Dollar Baby
2003 — 1 — $377.0 million — The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2002 — 10 — $170.7 million — Chicago
2001 — 11 — $170.7 million — A Beautiful Mind
2000 — 4 — $187.7 million — Gladiator
1999 — 13 — $130.1 million — American Beauty
1998 — 18 — $100.3 million — Shakespeare in Love
1997 — 1 — $600.8 million — Titanic
1996 — 19 — $78.7 million — The English Patient
1995 — 18 — $75.6 million — Braveheart
1994 — 1 — $329.7 million — Forrest Gump
1993 — 9 — $96.1 million — Schindler’s List
1992 — 11 — $101.2 million — Unforgiven
1991 — 4 — $130.7 million — Silence of the Lambs
1990 — 3 — $184.2 million — Dances with Wolves
1989 — 8 — $106.6 million — Driving Miss Daisy
1988 — 1 — $172.8 million — Rain Man
1987 — 25 — $44.0 million — The Last Emperor
1986 — 3 — $138.5 million — Platoon
1985 — 5 — $87.1 million — Out of Africa
1984 — 12 — $52.0 million — Amadeus
1983 — 2 — $108.4 million — Terms of Endearment
1982 — 12 — $52.8 million — Gandhi
1981 — 7 — $59.0 million — Chariots of Fire
1980 — 11 — $54.8 million — Ordinary People
1979 — xx — $106.3 million — Kramer Vs. Kramer
1978 — xx — $49.0 million — The Deer Hunter
1977 — xx — $38.3 million — Annie Hall
1976 — xx — $117.2 million — Rocky
1975 — xx — $109.0 million — One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
1974 — xx — $47.5 million — The Godfather Part II
1973 — xx — $156.0 million — The Sting
1972 — xx — $133.7 million — The Godfather
1971 — xx — $51.7 million — The French Connection
1970 — xx — $61.7 million — Patton

FEB 27 UPDATE: Updated to include the winner for 2007.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X