Let’s play a little game. I’m going to list five movies and I want you to think about the last time you’d thought about the movie. Ready? The Artist, The Kings Speach, Slumdog Millionaire, Crash, and Million Dollar Baby. Have any of your thought about these movies any time within the last few years? Most likely the answer is no, and why should you? What do these movies have in common? Well they are five of the last ten winners of the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Let’s play another game. Here’s five more movies, and I want you to think about the last time you gave these movies any thought. Ready? The Avengers (2013), Twilight (any of them), Transformers, Wedding Crashers, and Napoleon Dynamite. Have you thought of these movies more recently? My guess would be that you have. These movies represent five of the recent ten winners of the MTV Movie Awards prize for Best Movie.
The five Best Picture winners have an average domestic box office gross of about $95 million. That’s a respectable take for movies that likely didn’t have huge budgets. However, the winners of the Best Movie have an average domestic box office gross of about $293 million (we took the average of the Twilight movies which won a disturbing four years in a row). What does this say? Something, but not everything of course. Am I saying that box office beats quality? No. However, if you were to ask a studio head if they would rather have the $44 million grossing The Artist, or the $192 million grossing Twilight (part 1: Enter the Walking Sparkle Pony) I’m certain which one they would take.
What’s even funnier is that the Oscar nominated movies likely got a huge push from just being nominated. If not for the award consideration their box office would have been far far less. Several years ago I worked in movie theatres. Every year it happened that a movie which hardly anyone was seeing would get a few award nominations and then was suddenly selling out shows on a Friday/Saturday night. I called it the “English Patient Effect” (there’s another movie you probably haven’t thought of in fifteen years).
Am I saying that the Oscars aren’t important? No. They will almost certainly make careers, a talented actor/actress will get a part or a jump in pay that they wouldn’t otherwise have received, and perhaps a small movie which otherwise would have gone unnoticed might just find an audience. Many of my favorite movies have been nominated and, despite ultimately losing, continue to be among my top movies. However, let’s keep things in perspective over the next few weeks until the big night.