"12 Years a Slave" is set to expand from 411 theatres to 1,100 in the aftermath of its win Sunday night for Best Picture.
It is a testament to this year’s esteemed Best Picture nominees that the so-called “Oscar bump” has been negligible.
For “Gravity,” with its $269.6 million domestic box office gross, the highest of all nine nominees, its 10 nominations and seven wins are just icing on the cake. Likewise “American Hustle,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Captain Phillips.” Each surpassed the $100 million benchmark without benefit of a nomination, thank you very much.
"12 Years a Slave" is expanding from 411 theatres to 1,100 in the aftermath of its win Sunday night for Best Picture, but the Oscar bump for all nine nominees will most likely be seen in the ancillary markets, and that, notes Paul Dergarabedian, chief analyst for box office firm Rentrak, is why studios lavish so much spending and marketing muscle on behalf of an Oscar campaign. “The Oscar bump extends beyond a film’s theatrical release,” he told Millionaire Corner in a phone interview. “This year’s nominees (which happened to be released in October, November and December) were played out in theatres by the time of the nominations (which were announced in January) and will receive another bump on home video and video on demand. "People are going nuts right now with ‘Gravity,’ ‘Captain Phillips’ and “The Dallas Buyers Club’ on VOD,” he said.
Studios automatically react to Academy Award nominations by getting the film out to the marketplace in a broader way to reintroduce and reinvigorate the film. On the weekend after the nominations were announced, “Gravity’s” theatrical run was expanded to include 789 more theatres, Rentrak reported. It got a 345 percent increase at the box office.”12 Years a Slave," a harder sell due to its intense subject matter and graphic violence, added 647 theatres for a 469 percent box office surge.
In film distribution, as in comedy, timing is everything. Thanks to their later release dates, all nine Best Picture winners were playing in theatres Oscar weekend. But it’s the pictures’ playability, Dergarabedian observed, that has accounted for their strong showings throughout the holidays and into the New Year.
Traditionally, it is the smaller, arthouse or independent films that most benefit from an Academy Award nomination. “Philomena” and “Her,” for example, have drawn slowly and steadily steadily at the box office through strong word of mouth that their Oscar nominations for Best Picture can only underscore. Those who were squeamish about seeing “12 Years a Slave" in theatres, might now be induced to view the winner of Hollywood's supreme prize at home where they could control the experience.
“The studio revenue stream continues (beyond the theatrical run) and every studio needs to capitalize on that as much as they can,” Dergarabedian said. “Studios feel Oscar recognition itself is important enough to put resources, time, and money on capitalizing on a nomination.”
There is, of course, another kind of Oscar bump perhaps as equally important to studios, and that is the bump in prestige. “For any of these studios to have multiple nominations is a feather in their caps,” Dergarabedian said. “It shows that they have good taste.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.