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Best picture winners don't always get a box office boost

In the past decade, all best picture winners have grossed the far majority of their money before the Oscars were handed out.


You might assume that a best picture win at the Oscars would give its victors a sizable boost at the box office, especially for films that were previously obscure to a mainstream audience. But that’s not always the case. In fact, all of the previous 10 best picture winners, prior to last night’s win by The Artist, have grossed the far majority of their box office money before the Academy Awards. And in some cases, a best picture win yields almost zero additional box office earnings.

Post-Oscar sales depend on numerous factors—release dates, theatrical runs and theatre counts, to name a few—which is why some films are tapped out by the time they’re awarded best picture. For instance, 2006’s winner, Crash, was already released on DVD before the awards season kicked off, which is why its post-Oscar gross accounted for only 2.2% of its total. Likewise, The Departed received only 0.4% of its box office returns after winning best picture, also due to a relatively early release date.

But on the other hand, three of the previous 10 winners made more than one-fifth of their earnings after the Oscars. Notable among them is Million Dollar Baby, which made 36.5% of its money after the awards. Still, it earned the majority of its money in the month prior to the awards ceremony. For most best picture winners, the period between the nominations and awards is more profitable than post-Oscar buzz.

What does this mean for last night’s winner? Like always, it’s tough to predict, though The Artist should pull in more post-Oscar money than Crash or The Departed. Thus far, The Artist has grossed more than US$30 million in theatres, making it the second-lowest grossing best picture winner of the past three decades. The lowest is The Hurt Locker. Despite the positive publicity it received from its win two years ago, The Hurt Locker only pulled in an additional US$2.3 million after the awards.

*All data comes courtesy of and is based on domestic box office numbers (U.S. and Canada). Brackets next to the films’ titles reflect the year they were awarded an Oscar, not the year of release.