If you’ve taken a look at the Academy Award Best Picture Nominees for 2011, you might have noticed that none of them were smash hits at the box office. In fact, according to the worldwide gross data available at www.boxofficemojo.com, we find that this year’s highest ranking nominee, The Help, managed only 32nd place in 2011. This is a historic low:
Best Picture Nominee Worldwide Box Office Grosses, 1989-2011
|Year||Top Ranking Best Picture Nominee||Rank||Best Picture Winner||Rank|
|2010||Toy Story 3||1||The King's Speech||13|
|2009||Avatar||1||The Hurt Locker||93|
|2008||Slumdog Millionare||14||Slumdog Millionare||14|
|2007||Juno||22||No Country for Old Men||31|
|2006||The Departed||14||The Departed||14|
|2004||Million Dollar Baby||21||Million Dollar Baby||21|
|2003||LotR: Return of the King||1||LotR: Return of the King||1|
|2002||LotR: Two Towers||1||Chicago||12|
|2001||LotR: The Fellowship of the Ring||2||A Beautiful Mind||12|
|1999||The Sixth Sense||2||American Beauty||9|
|1998||Saving Private Ryan||2||Shakespeare in Love||9|
|1996||Jerry Maguire||9||The English Patient||11|
|1994||Forrest Gump||2||Forrest Gump||2|
|1993||The Fugitive||3||Schindler's List||4|
|1992||A Few Good Men||7||Unforgiven||13|
|1991||Beauty and the Beast||3||The Silence of the Lambs||5|
|1990||Ghost||1||Dances With Wolves||4|
|1989||Dead Poets Society||5||Driving Miss Daisy||13|
That’s as far back as the data goes on the website, but my guess would be that this year’s class of nominees holds this record over the 84-year history of the Academy Awards. The ostensible trend is that the tastes of the Academy are diverging from those of the global consumer base, but this is really only a cursory glance into this notion. I just found it kind of fun to think about.
It also looks like this year’s winner will beat out 2008′s The Hurt Locker as the least profitable Best Picture by rank: The Artist, which currently stands an 84% chance of winning this year’s Best Picture according to Intrade, is ranked 104th in worldwide gross so far this year.
A couple caveats:
- There are still a few films in this year’s class which are still in theaters in some locations. Therefore, it’s possible that The Help will move up another spot or two.
- Using Worldwide box office statistics probably inflates action films and deflates the arthouse-type films which have been nominated in recent years.
And a few final thoughts:
- Has there been a study done on demonstrable effects of piracy on different strata of films? [EDIT: The answer to this, of course, is yes.] In an attempt to analyze consumer psychology, I would guess that the ability to pirate makes a consumer much less likely to purchase or rent a DVD of a marginal film that she isn’t sure she’ll like. I wonder if the increased knowledge of and availability of torrent trackers could be linked to an increasing divergence in the financial success of more predictable films (sequels, remakes, Superhero films) and more risky ones (arthouse, original screenplays, etc.).
- Among this year’s nominees I’ve seen only The Descendants, Moneyball, and The Help, and I wasn’t really impressed with any. I don’t profess to have refined tastes for film, but my favorite movies of the year have been 50/50, The Guard, and Rango. Last year I was pretty obsessed with Winter’s Bone and True Grit.