By the time March 4 arrives when Oscars are handed out, those lauded pics still in play at the box office are projected to amass close to $150M, that is from the time since nominations were announced last Tuesday.
Of that figure, 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight combined with five titles —The Shape of Water (13 noms), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (7), The Greatest Showman (1), Ferdinand (1) and The Post (2)- will drive close to 65% of that figure.
Too often, those in the media like to cite that dramas and comedies –mid-budget movies– have been swallowed by streaming. But the Oscars are always a reminder that there’s a demand on the big screen for such fare, and people will get off their couch for it. Many of the major exhibition chains including AMC, Regal, and Cinemark have a number Oscar showcases planned over the next five weeks whereby moviegoers can watch all the Best Picture nominees.
For the most part, distributors took advantage of their Oscar nom glory this past weekend by adding screens. Fox Searchlight broke The Shape of Water wide for the first time with 1,854 locations seeing the biggest weekend-to-weekend surge among nominees (+181% or $5.9M). Peg that to the fact that the movie has the most Oscar nominations this year. Searchlight has a way of keeping its awards contenders booked at the same theaters for a near eternity of their play and through its ninth weekend, Guillermo del Toro’s sea creature romance has held tight at the Arclight Hollywood, LA’s The Landmark, AMC NYC Lincoln Square, the Angelika in New York, Cinema 1 also in New York, The Embarcadero in San Francisco and the Varsity in Toronto.
The Shape of Water according to Screen Engine/ComScore’s PostTrak is a hit with women earning a 84% positive score, and an overall audience positive score of 80%. Women over 25 are the dominant crowd at 40% followed by males over 25 at 36%. However, the R-rated movie didn’t immediately see a stampede from the young fanboy crowd with men under 25 only repping 12% of all moviegoers through the movie’s first two weeks of play.
However, what’s interesting is that the movies that look to gain the most cash this season, specifically, Fox’s The Greatest Showman and their DreamWorks/Participant release The Post, have the fewest noms (see our chart below).
In the case of the P.T. Barnum original musical The Greatest Showman, that pic’s momentum is inherently organic with audiences young and old being stoked by the singing sensations who are Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron.
Chalk The Post‘s pace up to timing, and Steven Spielberg thriller storytelling: The Washington Post‘s battle for the story on the Nixon White House’s cover-up of the Vietnam War just rings loud and true in a time when the media is embattled by an inflammatory Presidential administration that labels them “Fake News”. We saw a similar box office phenomenon three years ago with American Sniper, but it was winning over red state Middle America: It didn’t really seem to matter that the Clint Eastwood-directed movie had six Oscar noms including Best Picture; people were swept up en mass by that film’s patriotism shelling out over $350M stateside.
Fox Searchlight has also pegged Three Billboards‘ playability to the fact that its tough characters played by Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell speak to both blue and red state crowds alike. The Martin McDonagh-directed female crusade drama went wide again for the fourth time during its run up to 1,457, seeing a 100% gain weekend over weekend with $3.8M. By Oscar night, analysts believe it has a shot to make it to $45M. Since opening on Nov. 10, Three Billboards has played uninterrupted at the Tara in Atlanta, the Cinemark San Francisco Center, the Angelika Dallas, the E-Street Washington D.C. and the International Village in Vancouver,BC.
Speaking about timing, another pic that’s expected to catch a box office wave in the upcoming Winter Olympics climate is Neon/30WEST‘s I, Tonya which counts three Oscar noms for film editing, Margot Robbie’s turn as disgraced two-time Olympian skater Tonya Harding and Allison Janney as her acerbic mother LaVona Golden. Neon raised I, Tonya‘s count by 161 theaters to 960 last weekend, and it will go wide this Friday with an estimated 1,500 runs. The Craig Gillespie pic which Neon/30WEST acquired out of TIFF for $5M has already made back it MG and looks to twirl to $30M by Oscar night.
Those who have yet to see A24’s Lady Bird and Focus Features’ Darkest Hour will no doubt flock to the B.O. and raise their cumes substantially. The latter with six Oscar nominations including best actor for Gary Oldman’s sublime turn as WWII British prime minister Winston Churchill and Best Picture, is on track to be director Joe Wright’s highest grossing film of his career at the domestic B.O., besting his previous Oscar winner, Atonement ($50.9M).
However, few awards groups and pundits bet that Focus Features’ Paul Thomas Anderson-British drama Phantom Thread would breakthrough to Oscar night with its notching of key noms in the best picture, best actor (Daniel Day Lewis), supporting actress (Lesley Manville), and directing categories. That award pedigree will fuel this pic’s ticket sales past $20M by March 4 per Deadline analysts; essentially the one Oscar-nominated pic projected to make the most substantial gain with a near two fold boost since last Tuesday. Phantom Thread went wide this past weekend at 1,021 with an -8% weekend to weekend hold and a near $3M in weekend five.
Rivals have been critical about the performance of Sony Pictures Classics’ Call Me By Your Name, believing that the gay romance left major cash on the table, especially with the kudos it amassed in the fall with wins at the Gotham awards (Timothee Chalamet breakthrough actor, and best feature) and wins at the National Board of Review. Rivals believe SPC went wide too late in the pic’s run (weekend 9 at 815 venues), hence why the four Oscar-nominated pic looks to only make $14M by March 4. Compare this to Focus Features 2005 gay western Brokeback Mountain which amassed $83M during its entire run.
But let’s not forget that the Oscar boost isn’t all organic: It’s not just about expanding, hitting an air bump at the the box office, and then naturally expanding again. Distributors pay for the box office boost, with the average Oscar contender P&A spend around $30M. If a studio wants to cross the $100M threshold, they’ll shell out as much as $40M. SPC has traditionally sought the best bang for their buck with their Oscar fare spend; their only Oscar-winning title to surpass the century mark was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon ($128M) 18 years ago.
While Warner Bros.’ Dunkirk ($188.3M domestic B.O. with 8 noms including Best Picture) and Universal/Blumhouse’s Get Out ($175.6M with 4 noms including Best Picture) returned to theaters, their grosses were small given the fact that they’re both on DVD, with the Jordan Peele horror pic already in play on HBO. Their Oscar halo will certainly exist in home ancillary market. Get Out only made $165K this past weekend at 471 runs and Warner Bros. did not report Dunkirk‘s grosses.
Below are Deadline’s 2018 Oscar nominee projections at the domestic box office by Oscar night, March 4: