It's more than an honor just to be nominated. It could be worth millions of dollars.
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Several of the movies nominated for Oscars on Thursday -- bolstered, in many cases, by last week's three televised awards shows (Golden Globes, Critics' Choice, SAG Awards) -- saw boosts this weekend at the box office, some by nearly 500 percent over last week's earnings.
Conventional wisdom has it that an Oscar nomination is actually worth more than an Oscar win.
Especially in a year like this one, with an especially long home stretch, with seven weekends between the nominations and the Academy Awards, Oscar hopefuls that opened late in 2013 can still capitalize on their nominations for a few more weeks. After the awards ceremony on March 2, however, even those late-December movies will have been playing for nearly three months and will be at or near the end of their natural theatrical lives, so even if they win trophies, those golden statuettes won't have much gold-grabbing power left.
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So the time to make money is now, which is why a lot of nominees doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled their theater counts this weekend. The biggest expansion belonged to "Captain Phillips," which had been playing in about 100 theaters and is now on 903 screens. It was rewarded with the biggest increase, percentage-wise, of all the nominated films. It earned just an estimated $550,000 this weekend, but that was up 476 percent from a week ago. After 15 weeks in theaters, the movie has earned $105.7 million total, so it's no surprise that its increased earnings aren't that much in absolute terms.
In dollars, the biggest increase went to "American Hustle," (which is tied with "Gravity" as the most-nominated movie). "Hustle" took in an estimated $10.6 million, up 27 percent ($2.3 million) from last weekend. Pretty impressive, considering that the movie actually lost 425 theaters this weekend. After six weeks, the movie has amassed $116.4 million.
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As for "Gravity," it was almost played out, having opened in October, but it added 789 theaters this weekend (for a total of 944) and earned an estimated $1.9 million, up 364 percent from a week ago, for a total to date of $258.4 million. Like "Gravity," nine-time nominee "12 Years a Slave" greatly expanded its release (up 647 screens, to 761) and saw a 460 percent boost in business, to an estimated $1.5 million. Again, not bad for a hard-to-watch film that's been out 14 weeks and has already earned $40.6 million.
Some movies saw only a meager boost. "August: Osage County," with acting nominations for Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, doubled its theater count to more than 2,000 screens but saw just a 6 percent increase over last week, with an estimated $7.6 million in sales, bringing its four-week total to $18.2 million. "Nebraska" lost 113 screens (it's down to 408) but still saw a 6 percent boost, snagging an estimated $940,000 this weekend, for a 10-week total of $9.7 million.
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"Dallas Buyers Club," which saw Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto give three televised acceptance speeches each this week (at the Golden Globes, Critics' Choice, and Screen Actors Guild Awards), saw its revenues rise 282 percent from a week ago, but that still means it earned less than $1 million this week (an estimated $917,000, actually), for a total of $17.8 million over 12 weeks. Similarly, "Blue Jasmine" nearly tripled last week's take, but that amounts to just an estimated $50,300 this weekend. Still, the fact that the movie is still in theaters after six months is a triumph. Besides, it's earned $33.2 million in North America and a total of $94.8 million worldwide, making it the third highest-grossing film of Allen's 45-year directing career, so anything else it earns from now on is gravy.
But not every movie saw a boost.
Some Oscar-nominated films saw declines, though the drops may have been less steep than they would have been without the nominations. "Frozen" earned an estimated $12.0 million, down 19 percent from last weekend, but at this point, the movie has grossed $332.6 million and doesn't need the least bit of help from the Academy. "Wolf of Wall Street" could use the help, but it, too, fell 15 percent this weekend, earning another estimated $7.5 million. It's earned $90.3 million to date, still well shy of what the reported $100 million-budgeted movie needs to break even. "Philomena" dipped 6 percent, earning another estimated $1.4 million, but at $24.1 million earned to date, it's already done very well for an independent import.
Not doing so well is "Her," which earned an estimated $4.1 million, down 24 percent from a week ago, for a four-week total of $15.0 million. Not even five nominations, including Best Picture, seem capable of enticing viewers to see Joaquin Phoenix fall in love with his computer operating system.