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A Filmmaker's Choice: Win Best Picture Or Make A Lot of Cash?

A Filmmaker's Choice: Win Best Picture Or Make A Lot of Cash?

Take a guess: What do “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” from 2003, “Titanic” from 1997, “Forrest Gump,” released in 1994 and 1988’s “Rain Man,” have in common?

It’s not an actor or actress. And it’s not just that they’re all more than 15 years old. 

Those are the only movies in the last four decades or so to both reach No. 1 at the box office and win the Oscar for Best Picture.

Like this year’s Best Picture winner, “Green Book,” most Oscar winners these days are only modestly successful in theaters.

"Green Book," the story of black pianist Don Shirley and his white driver touring the segregated South in 1962, has earned $144 million at the box office globally so far, according to Box Office Mojo.

If you were one of those who was sure "Black Panther," last year’s superhero sensation, would win because it was such a phenomenon, you probably should have looked at recent winners.

Superheroes Snubbed 

Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS)’s "Black Panther," the top box office film of 2018, has so far brought in more than $700 million and was nominated for Best Picture. But like most big blockbusters, it lost out to a more sedate, some would say niche audience film.

Oscar voters, it seems, like serious stuff.

The fact that "Black Panther" was even nominated was something new. It was the first superhero film ever up for Best Picture. Considering how much Americans like superhero movies, that’s a hint that box office draw isn’t automatically going to net an Oscar nomination. Among the top-grossing movies with superheroes that were snubbed by the academy are “The Avengers” (2012), The “Dark Knight” (2008), “Spider-Man” (2002) and “Spider-Man 3” (2007).

Remember the Oscar winners that beat those films? 2012’s “Argo,” made just over $150 million to the nearly $700 million pulled in by “The Avengers." You’ve probably heard of the others — “Slumdog Millionaire,” “No Country for Old Men” and “Chicago” — but a comparative few saw those movies.

Oscar Voters Choose Art Over Money 

The biggest Oscar-winning box office loser of recent years? That would be 2009’s low-budget Iraq War movie “The Hurt Locker,” which brought in just $20 million. Still, the Oscar voters liked it better than “Avatar,” that year’s record-breaking top grossing film. It made more than $860 million.

A few years after "Avatar," “Star Wars, The Force Awakens” came along in 2015 and broke the box office calculators, bringing in almost $970 million and over $1 billion globally. But the winner that year was “Spotlight,” about investigative journalists working on child sex abuse stories. It made less than 5 percent of what “The Force Awakens” banked. 

It wasn’t a new phenomenon for the Star Wars franchise. “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” was the top-grossing film of 2005 — maybe you saw it. “Crash” was the Oscar winner that year. Based on box office figures, you probably didn’t.

Related Links:

Are The Oscars Irrelevant?

'Black Panther' Gets Big Pre-Release Boost From Inner-City Advocates

Posted-In: Academy Awards Box Office Mojo OscarsEducation Media General Best of Benzinga


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