Oscar winners slipping at the box office — 2008

I devoted posts to this subject in 2005, 2006 and 2007 — so I might as well whip one up for 2008, as well.

First, a recap:

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 winner that year — Crash — grossed a mere $54.6 million and ranked way, way down at #49.

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

Then, in 2007, the Oscars went “arthouse” again, by giving the top prize to No Country for Old Men, which grossed $74.3 million and ranked #36 for the year. Ironically, the only nominee that year to gross over $100 million was also an “independent” film, namely Juno.

And now, it is time for the nominees of 2008. Here are their current grosses and box-office rankings, as of yesterday:

  1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — $104,388,850 — 22nd
  2. Slumdog Millionaire — $44,711,799 — 62nd
  3. Milk — $20,655,400 — 111th
  4. Frost/Nixon — $8,888,701 — 145th
  5. The Reader — $8,061,851 — 148th

For what it’s worth, this marks the first time since 1983 that not one but two of the Best Picture nominees had made less than $10 million at the time of their nomination. And, between them, the five nominees for 2008 have an average gross of $37,341,320, which is virtually tied with 2005′s average of $37,279,704; you have to go all the way back to 1986 to find a year that had a clearly lower average on the day the nominees were announced.

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 25, and only one of those films (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) has had a wide release so far; two more (Frost/Nixon, Slumdog Millionaire) are expanding to over a thousand theatres tomorrow, and presumably the other two will get wider releases as well.

I’ll copy the list that I compiled three years ago below, and I’ll add this year’s winner after it is announced February 22.

2008 — 29 — $98.0 million (so far) — Slumdog Millionaire
2007 — 36 — $74.3 million — No Country for Old Men
2006 — 15 — $132.4 million — The Departed
2005 — 49 — $54.6 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 22 UPDATE: Updated to include the winner for 2008.

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).


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