From Oscar Snubs to Ad Sales: Following the Business of Awards Season
by Josh Wolonick, Minyanville staff writer
Last night’s Golden Globes ceremony was one of the best in years, with upsets, on-stage and in-audience drama, a weird ramble from Jodie Foster, an excellent, stone-cold stare from Tommy Lee Jones provoked by Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell, ratings that hit a six-year high, and excellent hosting from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. The two were spot on with their jokes and their limited time on stage left me wanting more.
And so awards season has officially begun. With nominations out last week and the precursory Golden Globes behind us, it’s onto the big night, the Academy Awards -- the Super Bowl for movies, the best night of TV for movie lovers like myself, a glitzy showcase of Hollywood's biggest talent, and a major night for television ad revenue.
Awards Season Effect on the Box Office
Last week’s release of the nominees caused considerable bumps in box office revenue for several films, as well as stirred up controversy -- particularly around the snubbing of Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck, and Quentin Tarantino for Best Director nominations.
Lincoln, distributed by the Disney (NYSE: DIS) company, Touchstone, saw its box office revenue increase by 17% to $6.3 million for the weekend, putting it at a total of $152,579,000. Daniel Day-Lewis won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama for his portrayal of the titular president, and he’s definitely the front-runner for the Oscar. His was the only win for Lincoln at the Golden Globes last night, but somehow I feel like the film will fare better with the Academy.
Silver Linings Playbook, distributed by the Weinstein Company, saw its take increase 38% over last weekend, to $5 million. With a total gross of $41,306,000 so far, its move into wider release this weekend, Jennifer Lawrence’s win of Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical last night, and Oscar nominations for best actress (Lawrence), actor (Bradley Cooper), supporting actor (Robert DeNiro), director (David O Russell), and film, you can expect Silver Linings Playbook to see its awards-season bump continue. Lawrence’s win was the only one for the film.
Zero Dark Thirty, distributed by Sony (NYSE: SNE), saw a strong wide release debut this weekend, earning $24 million. The film also took home one award last night, for Jessica Chastain’s performance as a CIA agent who leads the effort to find and kill Osama bin Laden. This win will benefit the film and its reputation, given the controversy around the film’s torture scenes. Chastain’s win may serve to humanize the appeal of the film and broaden its demographic. Whether or not this happens, we'll see strong box office results for the film until the Oscars (Kathryn Bigelow's last film, The Hurt Locker, with $17 million at the time of its win, was the lowest grossing film to take Best Picture. That won't happen again for Bigelow). If it wins the Best Picture, it could maybe surpass $100 million total box office.
Argo, distributed by Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) company Warner Brothers, saw its weekend gross increase 57.1% over last weekend. In anticipation of Awards season, the film expanded from 302 theaters to 601 over the weekend. With a total gross of $111,645,000, and wins last night for Best Director and Best Picture, we’ll see Argo continue to make money and build buzz as a new front-runner for Best Picture.
Django Unchained, distributed by the Weinstein Company, had a win last night for Christoph Waltz (so fun to watch) as Best Supporting Actor, and a win for Quentin Tarantino in the Best Screenplay category. The latter was a surprise and perhaps a consolation to Tarantino after being snubbed for Best Director nomination at the Oscars. The film saw its box office draw drop 45% to $11.1 million, but has so far made $125.4 million, which is the biggest box office pull for any Tarantino film. We’ll see fairly consistent box office revenue for the film as it moves through awards season and continues to be talked about.
Les Miserables, distributed by Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) company Universal, saw a 37% decline to $10.1 million, putting it at a total of $119.2 million and making it the fifth-highest-grossing movie musical of all time. Moreover, after wins last night for Hugh Jackman as Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical, and for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, we can expect the film to continue a steady box office pull as it enters the Academy Awards.
The Best Director Controversy
Enough cannot be said about the absurdity of Quentin Tarantino, Kathryn Bigelow, and Ben Affleck not being nominated for the Best Director Award. Tarantino deserves a nomination, but for months, talk has been that the race was between Bigelow (whose Best Director win for The Hurt Locker in 2010 made her the first woman to win the award) and Affleck. Argo’s wins last night -- for Best Picture - Drama, and Best Director for Affleck -- definitely have fueled the "snub" controversy. When you add this to Ben Affleck’s win for Best Director from the Critics' Choice Awards, Argo may be poised to have a redemptive run for Affleck at the Oscars.
Oscar Ad Sales
By Friday, January 11, ad space was already near sold out for the Academy Awards broadcast, which will be on Sunday, February 24 this year. Remaining 30-second ads are expected to go for around $2 million, with this year’s range for 30-second ads being $1.65 million to $1.8 million, marginally up from last year's $1.6 million to $1.7 million. According to Debbie Richman, senior VP of primetime ad sales at ABC, which is hosting the Awards, “We haven’t been this well sold, this early, in over a decade.”
The healthy ad sales may be a result of the better economy this year, but it's also due to the buzz around host Seth MacFarlane. As the creator of Family Guy, it is expected that MacFarlane will bring a wider demographic to the show. And simply put, this year’s films are excellent, with so many quality options in each category. For all the buzz around the Best Director decisions, the five nominees are very worthy. Unlike the Best Picture category with nine nominees, only five directors can be considered for nomination.
A Bountiful Awards Season
If the Golden Globes are to be seen as a preview for Hollywood’s biggest night, then the Best Picture front-runner, despite early and strong buzz for Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, and Les Miserables, might just be Argo. The last director who won a Golden Globe and was not nominated for the Oscar was actor-turned-director Clint Eastwood in 1988 for Bird. This happened to actors/directors Paul Newman (Rachel, Rachel) and Barbara Streisand (Yentl) as well.
With the buzz surrounding the Golden Globes, the healthy ad revenue at ABC, the controversy over the Best Director race, and the high quality and variety of this year’s films, this will be an exciting race down Oscar Alley for us movie-goers, and a lucrative one for the studios and ABC.
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