Since 2005, only one Best Picture winner made more than $140 million
An analysis of 20 years of Oscars data shows some clear trends in the types of movies the Academy chooses for Best Picture. MarketWatch analyzed domestic and international box office figures and estimated budgets data from Box Office Mojo and The Numbers, and found that the movies with the biggest budgets rarely win the Oscar for Best Picture.
Since “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” no Best Picture winner has come close to grossing $378 million domestically. “Avatar” had a chance to break that record at the 2010 awards, but lost to “The Hurt Locker,” which made almost 45 times less at the domestic box office. Toy Story 3, which made $415 million, also had the opportunity to win at the 2011 awards, but was beaten by the relatively low budget film “The King’s Speech.”
Since 2005, the Academy has consistently rewarded films that made less than $140 million at the domestic box office. Exceptions to this are “Slumdog Millionaire,” which made $141 million. “Titanic” won the Oscar for Best Picture at the 1998 Academy Awards and also made more than any other movie that year, which has yet to happen again.
This year’s Best Picture nominees were all estimated to have been made for less than $50 million. Looking at previous years, it seems that lower budgets correspond to having more success. The Academy has only picked the highest budget films out of the potential nominees 3 times since 1996.
The Academy also often picks films that have had international success. Looking back 20 years, “Argo” has relied the most on the domestic box office for revenue out of the Best Picture winners — meaning, the domestic box office made up 58.5% of its revenue. The majority of winners in this period got more than 50% of their revenue from their international release.
For 2016 films, we won’t know the actual international box office figures until later in 2017, once the nominated films are distributed, but from the current figures the movies “Lion,” “Hacksaw Ridge” and “La La Land” are the only ones to generate over 50% of their revenue internationally.
While we’re not yet able to see how the Oscar nominees will profit after their exposure in 2017, it is interesting to look at the trends of the Academy’s decisions. Generally speaking, lower budgets, international success, and non-blockbusters win the Best Picture Oscar.
Additional work: Evie Liu