Oscar winners slipping at the box office — 2012

I haven’t done this in a few years, but I did devote posts to this subject in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 — so I might as well whip one up for 2012, 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.

Ever since then, the Oscar for Best Picture has alternated between relatively big hits and somewhat smaller box-office performers.

In 2006, the Oscars went back in a more “popular” direction, by giving the top prize to The Departed, which grossed $132.4 million and ranked #15 for the year.

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.)

In 2008, the Oscars went “popular” again, by giving the top prize to Slumdog Millionaire, which, despite being an “independent” film and a quasi-foreign one to boot, wound up grossing $141.3 million and ranking #16 for the year.

In 2009 (the first year in decades in which the Academy allowed for up to ten Best Picture nominees), the Oscars went “arthouse” again, by giving the top prize to The Hurt Locker, a film that grossed a mere $17 million and ranked #116 for the year — easily the lowest-grossing Best Picture winner of my lifetime (and its grosses would seem even lower if we adjusted ticket prices for inflation!).

In 2010, the Oscars went “popular” again, by giving the top prize to The King’s Speech, which grossed $135.5 million and ranked #18 for the year.

In 2011, the Oscars went “arthouse” again, by giving the top prize to The Artist, which grossed a mere $44.7 million and ranked #71 for the year.

And now, it is time for the nominees of 2012 — and if today’s nominations are anything to go by, the Academy will be swinging in a fairly “popular” direction again. Here are the current grosses and box-office rankings for the nine Best Picture nominees, as of yesterday:

  • Lincoln — $145,040,261 — 17th
  • Django Unchained — $110,580,651 — 25th
  • Argo — $110,240,312 — 26th
  • Les Miserables — $106,392,520 — 27th
  • Life of Pi — $91,567,788 — 31st
  • Silver Linings Playbook — $35,376,870 — 87th
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild — $11,249,128 — 131st
  • Zero Dark Thirty — $4,928,956 — 151st
  • Amour — $340,798 — 260th

Of course, these totals can and will change, and the rankings of at least a few of these films will no doubt slide up a bit.

As before, here are the Best Picture winners (with box-office stats) going back to the year of my birth; I’ll add this year’s winner after it is announced February 24:

2011 — 71 — $44.7 million — The Artist
2010 — 18 — $135.5 million — The King’s Speech
2009 — 116 — $17.0 million — The Hurt Locker
2008 — 16 — $141.3 million — 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

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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