Despite Dark Themes, A Big Oscar Bounce

Play associated audio

How much is a best-picture Oscar worth? Not the statuette — winners are required to sell that back to the Academy for a buck if they want to get rid of it. No, what's the Oscar worth at the box office?

It's tricky to estimate, obviously, what with some pictures already on DVD when the contenders are nominated, and others just starting their theatrical runs. Still, this is a year where nominations appear to have made a difference, with a surprising number of popular nominees. Surprising because most of the best-picture selections were initially considered too dark to make much money.

The pretty digital-tiger movie, for instance, is downright Darwinian; the comedy is about mental illness; the musical is actually called The Miserable Ones; the indie flick is about death and hurricanes, and the foreign film just about death.

And then there are the dramas, about terrorism, slavery, terrorism and slavery. Dark, dark, dark. And everybody knows dark doesn't sell.

Except that a record seven of the nine best-picture nominees have already passed the $100 million mark. And a bit more than a third of that cash has come in since the Oscar nominations — weeks and even months after some of the films opened.

That doesn't happen with most pictures, or even with most nominees. So the Oscar bounce appears to be bigger than usual this year — though it's been purchased, let's note, at considerable expense. The Los Angeles Times estimates that Disney, which is hoping for its first best-picture win with Lincoln, has spent about $10 million campaigning for the award, presumably looking forward to a payoff not just at the box office but also in DVDs, streaming and other revenues later.

Oscar-winning director William Friedkin once called the Oscars "the greatest promotion scheme that any industry ever designed for itself," and the numbers suggest he wasn't overstating. By the time this year's statuettes are handed out, the nine best-picture nominees will together have sold more than a quarter of a billion tickets — meaning that a lot more people than usual will know enough to enter their office Oscar pools. Small wonder Sunday's telecast is commanding record rates for ad time.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Can A Canadian Prime Minister Be An Action Hero? Marvel Comics Thinks So

Justin Trudeau has had a varied career — bouncer, snowboard instructor, Canada's prime minister. Now he's a Marvel Comics action hero. Only two other world leaders have appeared in Marvel Comics.
WAMU 88.5

Is Virginia The Birthplace Of Southern Barbecue?

We speak with two food writers about tracing the roots of barbecue to local Powhatan Indian slow-cooking.

WAMU 88.5

Results From Congressional Primary Races And New Concerns About Hacks Into State Voting Systems

Join us to discuss results from primary challenges to Republican Senator John McCain, Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz and others and new concerns possible Russian hackers breaking into U.S. state voting systems.

WAMU 88.5

Results From Congressional Primary Races And New Concerns About Hacks Into State Voting Systems

Join us to discuss results from primary challenges to Republican Senator John McCain, Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz and others and new concerns possible Russian hackers breaking into U.S. state voting systems.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.