BOXOFFICE takes a look at how the Best Picture nominees are improving financially.

The Financial Impact of the Oscars

on January 27, 2009 by Phil Contrino
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When the Oscar nominations were announced last Thursday morning they instantly set off a chain reaction across not only Hollywood, but the entire country.

Suddenly, a group of films and specific artistic accomplishments went from having a lot of buzz to being a part of history. Agents began to drool when thinking about how much the asking prices for their nominated clients would increase. Housewives in Indiana suddenly felt the desire to see a film about fate that stars no recognizable Hollywood actors. The result, in the end, is more money in the bank.

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The film's that have been nominated for Best Picture this year are in a unique position to capitalize on the free exposure. Usually, there is always at least one film in the bunch that has already landed on video shelves. See Crash in 2005 or Gladiator in 2000, both of which went on to win the big prize. That isn't the case this time around. This year, Slumdog Millionaire was released the earliest, with a limited theatrical run that began on November 12. Milk was released on a handful of screens on November 26, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon and The Reader were all released in December. With the exception of Benjamin Button, none of the other films achieved blockbuster status before the nominations were announced, which means there are still plenty of moviegoers that haven't discovered them yet.

The movie ticketing site Fandango saw a huge jump in sales from the Wednesday before the nominations to the day they were announced. Slumdog Millionaire jumped 177%, while The Reader experienced the biggest leap with 238%. It's a safe to say that business will remain steady right up until the winners are announced.

"None of the five films are played out, and in the case of Slumdog, Frost/Nixon and Reader, they’re expanding their release – so the Oscar nods certainly help fuel moviegoer interest in these titles," Rick Butler, COO of Fandango told B OXOFFICE.

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Last weekend, Slumdog Millionaire sold 2.5 times as many tickets as the next highest-selling nominee, Benjamin Button, on MovieTickets.com. In addition, sales for Frost/Nixon and Benjamin Button both doubled from the previous weekend.

Landmark CEO Ted Mundorff is in a unique position to see the effect that the Oscar nominations have on smaller films, since the nationwide theatre circuit he works for specializes in indies and foreign films.

"Each film responds differently to the awards. Most of the time it is based on how much exposure the film has had prior to the nominations," Mundorff told B OXOFFICE. "This year The Reader may get the most impact on a percentage increase basis. This is because it is probably the least exposed film of the group." The Reader, which has been released after much controversy by The Weinstein Company, brought in only $8 million before the nominations were announced. Since then, it has added more than $2 million to its total domestic haul.

Of course, since it's the frontrunner for Best Picture, Slumdog Millionaire is going rake in the most cash when the smoke clears. Since being nominated, the Fox Searchlight release has tacked on more than $12 million to its total haul.

Still, getting nominated for an Oscar isn't essential to box office success. Even though it unexpectedly received no Oscar nominations, Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino is still holding its audience very well. The final domestic haul for the Warner Bros. release will land comfortably past the $100 million mark, which is certainly much more than Milk, Frost/Nixon, The Reader and probably even Slumdog Millionaire will be able to grab.

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