Oscar winners slipping at the box office — 2017

Oscar winners slipping at the box office — 2017 March 2, 2018

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For most of the Academy’s history, the award for Best Picture has gone to a fairly big box-office hit, a film that appealed to the vast majority of moviegoers everywhere.

That all changed in 2005, when the award went to Crash, the first Best Picture winner (in my lifetime, at least) that was not one of the Top 25 hits in the year of its release. In fact, Crash, which grossed only $54.6 million, ranked way, way down at #49.

For the next several years, the Oscar for Best Picture alternated between relatively big hits and somewhat smaller box-office performers — and for the last four years, the award has gone to a steady string of smaller films well outside the Top 60.

Is that the new normal now? Will the award go to another small film this year?

It depends. For most of the Academy’s history, the odds would have favoured The Shape of Water — a romantic fantasy that has also performed somewhat modestly at the box office — simply because it has more nominations than any other film, and also because its director, Guillermo Del Toro, is highly favoured to win the Best Director award.

But right now, the consensus seems to be that that film is in a tight three-way race for the top prize with Get Out, a hugely popular horror film that delves into American racial politics, and Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, which touches on — and critiques to some degree — the sort of outrage that has accompanied the #MeToo moment.

Each film has its supporters, and each film has historical precedents to overcome. Get Out is a genre film that came out over a year ago, and it failed to get a nomination for Best Film Editing; the only remotely recent film to win Best Picture without a nomination in that category was Birdman, which was designed to look like it was all shot in one unbroken take. Three Billboards failed to get a nomination for Best Director, and very few films have managed to win Best Picture without at least a nomination in that category (though Argo pulled it off five years ago). And The Shape of Water, which has all the right Oscar nominations, failed to get an ensemble nomination from the Screen Actors Guild, which no film has won Best Picture without since Braveheart managed it 22 years ago.

As ever, we shall see. For now, here are the nominees, with their grosses and box-office rankings for the year as of the day they were nominated (i.e. January 23):

  1. Dunkirk — $188,045,546 — 14th
  2. Get Out — $175,686,870 — 16th
  3. The Post — $45,763,616 — 54th
  4. Darkest Hour — $41,085,957 — 63rd
  5. Lady Bird — $39,167,960 — 67th
  6. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri — $32,254,616 — 116th
  7. The Shape of Water — $30,441,204 — 75th
  8. Call Me by Your Name — $9,370,359 — 127th
  9. Phantom Thread — $6,385,599 — 140th

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 March 4:

2017 — 48 — $57.4 million — The Shape of Water
2016 — 92 — $27.9 million — Moonlight
2015 — 62 — $45.1 million — Spotlight
2014 — 78 — $42.3 million — Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
2013 — 62 — $56.7 million — 12 Years a Slave
2012 — 22 — $136.0 million — Argo
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

March 4 update: Updated to include the winner for 2017.

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