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It’s more than an honor just to be nominated. It could be worth millions of dollars.
Several of the movies nominated for Oscars on Thursday — bolstered, in many cases, by last week’s three televised awards shows (Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice, SAG Awards) — saw boosts this weekend at the box office, some by nearly 500 percent over last week’s earnings.
Conventional wisdom has it that an Oscar nomination is actually worth more than an Oscar win.
Especially in a year like this one, with an especially long home stretch, with seven weekends between the nominations and the Academy Awards, Oscar hopefuls that opened late in 2013 can still capitalize on their nominations for a few more weeks. After the awards ceremony on March 2, however, even those late-December movies will have been playing for nearly three months and will be at or near the end of their natural theatrical lives, so even if they win trophies, those golden statuettes won’t have much gold-grabbing power left.
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So the time to make money is now, which is why a lot of nominees doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled their theater counts this weekend. The biggest expansion belonged to “Captain Phillips,” which had been playing in about 100 theaters and is now on 903 screens. It was rewarded with the biggest increase, percentage-wise, of all the nominated films. It earned just an estimated $ 550,000 this weekend, but that was up 476 percent from a week ago. After 15 weeks in theaters, the movie has earned $ 105.7 million total, so it’s no surprise that its increased earnings aren’t that much in absolute terms.
In dollars, the biggest increase went to “American Hustle,” (which is tied with “Gravity” as the most-nominated movie). “Hustle” took in an estimated $ 10.6 million, up 27 percent ($ 2.3 million) from last weekend. Pretty impressive, considering that the movie actually lost 425 theaters this weekend. After six weeks, the movie has amassed $ 116.4 million.
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As for “Gravity,” it was almost played out, having opened in October, but it added 789 theaters this weekend (for a total of 944) and earned an estimated $ 1.9 million, up 364 percent from a week ago, for a total to date of $ 258.4 million. Like “Gravity,” nine-time nominee “12 Years a Slave” greatly expanded its release (up 647 screens, to 761) and saw a 460 percent boost in business, to an estimated $ 1.5 million. Again, not bad for a hard-to-watch film that’s been out 14 weeks and has already earned $ 40.6 million.
Some movies saw only a meager boost. “August: Osage County,” with acting nominations for Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, doubled its theater count to more than 2,000 screens but saw just a 6 percent increase over last week, with an estimated $ 7.6 million in sales, bringing its four-week total to $ 18.2 million. “Nebraska” lost 113 screens (it’s down to 408) but still saw a 6 percent boost, snagging an estimated $ 940,000 this weekend, for a 10-week total of $ 9.7 million.
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“Dallas Buyers Club,” which saw Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto give three televised acceptance speeches each this week (at the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice, and Screen Actors Guild Awards), saw its revenues rise 282 percent from a week ago, but that still means it earned less than $ 1 million this week (an estimated $ 917,000, actually), for a total of $ 17.8 million over 12 weeks. Similarly, “Blue Jasmine” nearly tripled last week’s take, but that amounts to just an estimated $ 50,300 this weekend. Still, the fact that the movie is still in theaters after six months is a triumph. Besides, it’s earned $ 33.2 million in North America and a total of $ 94.8 million worldwide, making it the third highest-grossing film of Allen’s 45-year directing career, so anything else it earns from now on is gravy.
But not every movie saw a boost.
Some Oscar-nominated films saw declines, though the drops may have been less steep than they would have been without the nominations. “Frozen” earned an estimated $ 12.0 million, down 19 percent from last weekend, but at this point, the movie has grossed $ 332.6 million and doesn’t need the least bit of help from the Academy. “Wolf of Wall Street” could use the help, but it, too, fell 15 percent this weekend, earning another estimated $ 7.5 million. It’s earned $ 90.3 million to date, still well shy of what the reported $ 100 million-budgeted movie needs to break even. “Philomena” dipped 6 percent, earning another estimated $ 1.4 million, but at $ 24.1 million earned to date, it’s already done very well for an independent import.
Not doing so well is “Her,” which earned an estimated $ 4.1 million, down 24 percent from a week ago, for a four-week total of $ 15.0 million. Not even five nominations, including Best Picture, seem capable of enticing viewers to see Joaquin Phoenix fall in love with his computer operating system.
Gallery | 10 Critically-Despised Movies You Didn’t Know Were Nominated for Oscars
- ‘Norbit’ (2007)
OK, so this might be the most fascinating nominee of all, because when Eddie Murphy was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Dreamgirls” the following year, it was “Norbit” that most agree led to him losing. Academy members, who vote on the Awards, would drive around Los Angeles and see the nightmarish posters for “Norbit” all around town, with Murphy dressed in full drag as an overweight, obnoxious African American woman. It was that distaste that most have concluded led to them leaving him off of their ballots. (Murphy did not take the loss lightly, storming out of the theater after his name wasn’t called.) So the following year, the Academy goes and votes for “Norbit” for Best Make-Up (for special effects wizard and frequent Murphy collaborator Rick Baker). To add perfect symmetry to this story, “Norbit” didn’t win the Oscar either. Presumably Murphy stormed out of whatever room he was watching the Oscars in that year too.
- ‘The Black Dahlia’ (2006)
Director Brian De Palma is no stranger to controversy and criticism. This is, after all, a filmmaker, who, at the peak of his creative prowess, was regularly being decried as a hateful misogynist. So, to call “The Black Dahlia” one of the most poorly received movies of the man’s career is really saying something. But people hated it. And unlike those ’80s movies, nobody showed up to watch it, either. Which makes the movie’s sole Oscar nomination, for Best Cinematography, something that borders on the miraculous. There are a number of jaw-dropping moments in the movie, though, so Vilmos Zsigmond (a legendary director of photography if there ever was one) was wisely acknowledged, even if the world as a whole could barely remember the movie.
- ‘The Village’ (2004)
… Aka the movie that made the world realize that writer/director/charlatan M. Night Shyamalan was most likely full of…. This underwhelming chiller, the director’s follow-up to the crowd-pleasing alien-invasion romp “Signs,” was set in an old-timey community and featured one of the dumber twist endings in recent memory. It’s the kind of movie where a mentally challenged character somehow becomes less challenged as the movie goes along. None of this has to do with the movie’s Academy Award recognition, however, which earned composer James Newton Howard his fourth nomination in the Best Original Score category. The best thing that can be said about the music in “The Village” is that it did actively distract from the general crappiness of the movie’s script, performances, and direction. And that’s saying a whole lot.
- ‘Con Air’ (1997)
This movie has become such a staple of Saturday afternoon TNT programming that it’s shocking to think that the movie was ever in the theaters at all. And yet, it was. With considerably more cursing and bloodshed than the airing-on-basic cable version. It’s only fitting that it was one of the bombastic B-movies that Nic Cage chose to do following his nuanced, Academy Award-winning performance in “Leaving Las Vegas.” Maybe it was Cage’s lingering power that caused the Academy to put it in contention for Best Sound Mixing and Best Original Song (for “How Do I Live,” a song that was everywhere the summer “Con Air” came out). Of course, this was the year of “Titanic,” which swept the Awards (even categories it wasn’t even in the mix for), so “Con Air” never stood a chance. Still: it will always have TNT.
- ‘Batman Forever’ (1995)
These days, “Batman Forever” is remembered for a lot of things: the switchover from Michael Keaton to the more whimsical Val Kilmer, the addition of nipples to the Batsuit, whatever the hell Jim Carrey was doing — but one thing it’s not remembered for is “quality.” Joel Schumacher’s command of the Bat-franchise took it into colorful new territory, but one that made you reach for the nearest bottle of Tylenol. And yet, it swung in and nabbed Academy Award nominations for Cinematography (wait, what?), Sound and Sound Editing. The fact that it won none means that there is still justice in the world, with or without nipples on the Batsuit and Nicole Kidman’s questionable American accent.
- ‘Toys’ (1992)
More than 20 years after the movie’s release, I still have no clue what “Toys” was about. It was directed by Barry Levinson, and positioned as a big Christmas movie (there were these bizarre ads that ran in the theaters, featuring star Robin Williams in the middle of a vast, grassy field), but the film was a discombobulating, surrealist mess. None of this, apparently, kept it from vying for Oscar gold, with the movie securing a pair of nominations — Art Direction and Costume Design. It lost both categories, to movies that better married their arty pretensions and consumerist leanings (“Howard’s End” and “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” respectively). Still, all these years later, I can’t get that image of Williams running around in those fields, out of my head.
- ‘Dick Tracy’ (1990)
Warren Beatty, who produced, directed, and starred in “Dick Tracy,” was certainly going for something specific. The movie was shot only in primary colors, with the composition and lighting of an old-timey comic strip (which is where the character, created by Chester Gould, began), with exaggerated make-up and a bombastic score by Danny Elfman. To say that it was ahead of its time is an understatement, as it predates things like “300” and “Sin City” by decades. But at the time, the movie was puzzled over and never embraced. Disney thought it had a hit on its hands, spending $ 100 million on production and marketing, but the movie ultimately sputtered and fizzled to a close. This stung even more given the phenomenal success of the previous summer’s comic book-y “Batman.” But here’s what amazing: it was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three of them. It was up for Best Supporting Actor, Song, Sound Mixing, Art Direction, Makeup, Cinematography and Costume, and won the Song, Makeup, and Art Direction categories.
- ‘Heaven’s Gate’ (1980)
Today, Michael Cimino’s troubled period epic “Heaven’s Gate” has its fare share of defenders (including yours truly, and not just because my hair looks exactly like John Hurt’s in the movie), thanks in large part to a 2012 restored director’s cut and a collective realization that it didn’t deserve the skewering it got upon initial release. But at the time of the Academy Awards, it was still seen as a hulking pile of burning rubble — a thing so powerful and ugly that it brought down an entire studio (United Artists). Keep in mind that the movie was released into theaters and then pulled from those same theaters so that it could be drastically re-edited. So, it is kind of incredible that it managed to garner an Oscar nomination, in the form of Best Art Direction / Set Direction (a deserved nomination if there ever was one). It didn’t win. But the nomination does shake up the historical record of it being a universally despised bomb. Somebody must have liked it enough, even back then.
- ‘1941’ (1979)
Steven Spielberg’s most notorious box-office and critical failure was probably “1941,” an overstuffed, all-star farce based loosely on the Great Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942, when a submarine shelled an oil refinery just outside of Hollywood. If you’re looking to roll your eyes dramatically, watching “1941” should do the trick. And yet… It was nominated for Oscars. Yes, multiple awards. In fact, it was in the mix for three Academy Awards in 1980: Sound Mixing, Cinematography, and Visual Effects. Of course, this was the year of “Apocalypse Now” and “All That Jazz” (not to mention ultimate, unlikely champion “Kramer vs. Kramer”), so “1941” didn’t have much of a chance. Back to obscurity it goes, alongside “Always” and “The Terminal” in the Steven Spielberg graveyard of utter misfires.
- ‘Bugsy Malone’ (1976)
For those who remember, Alan Parker (who would go on to direct “Midnight Express,” “Pink Floyd’s The Wall” and “Evita”) made his feature directorial debut with the most bizarre children’s film, possibly ever (or maybe just until The Wachowskis’ “Speed Racer”). The film has only been intermittently released on home video in the United States, which gives the movie a kind of dreamlike haze. Oh yeah… is how people will most likely respond when you try to jostle their memory into retrieving some scrap of “Bugsy Malone.” (It was a huge financial bomb in the United States.) Still, despite all of this, it secured a lone Academy Award nomination — for the now-defunct Best Original Song Score category (what?) for future Daft Punk collaborator Paul Williams. It didn’t win. But still. The fact that it was nominated at all is pretty miraculous. And you know what? The songs are still pretty good, if you can track down a copy of the soundtrack album.
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