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Oscar Box Office Effect Benefits Only 3 Movies

Crazy Heart Oscar nominee Jeff Bridges Maggie GyllenhaalCrazy Heart with Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Working steadily in movies since the early 1970s, Bridges (The Last Picture Show, Starman) was this year’s Best Actor Oscar winner.
  • Following the announcement of this year’s Academy Award winners on March 7, a mere three movies appear to have benefitted from the “Oscar box office effect”: Crazy Heart, starring Best Actor Jeff Bridges; The Blind Side, starring Best Actress Sandra Bullock; and Kathryn Bigelow’s Best Picture/Director winner The Hurt Locker.
  • In other domestic box office news, the well-received Roman Polanski thriller The Ghost Writer has lost steam after increasing its number of theaters. Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan star.

This year’s ‘Oscar box office effect’ has benefitted only 3 titles – those that won the 3 top awards

March 12–14 weekend box office: The weak debuts of four titles in wide release – Green Zone, She’s Out of My League, Remember Me, Our Family Wedding – were the big bad story about this past weekend at the North American (U.S. and Canada only) box office.

Even so, there’s another sad tale that should be told: That of the ever-dwindling “Oscar box office effect.”

According to final studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com, Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart, John Lee Hancock’s The Blind Side, and Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker were the only three movies that seem to have benefited from their Academy Award wins on Sunday, March 7.

Crazy Heart, The Blind Side & The Hurt Locker

Starring veteran Jeff Bridges (The Last Picture Show, King Kong) as a down-and-out country singer who strikes up a relationship with a younger woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Crazy Heart earned Bridges the Best Actor Oscar, in addition to winning for Best Original Song (T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham’s “The Weary Kind”).

More than any other film, Crazy Heart has been immensely helped by this year’s awards season buzz. Following Bridges’ Oscar victory and the addition of 87 locations, the $7 million production scored $3 million at no. 12 on the chart – down 9 percent from the previous weekend. That’s by far the smallest decrease among the top 12 titles. To date, Crazy Heart has pulled in $34.2 million.

Relatively speaking, the sentimental family/socially conscious drama The Blind Side did even better with $1.6 million at no. 13, up 28 percent despite the loss of 19 sites. The biggest domestic sleeper hit of 2009 – cume: $252.7 million – stars Best Actress Oscar winner and Top U.S. Box Office Draw Sandra Bullock and country singer Tim McGraw.

And at no. 17, Best Picture/Best Director winner The Hurt Locker grossed (an estimated) $828,000 – an 89 percent increase – from 349 theaters (75 more than a week ago). The $15 million Iraq War drama was initially released last summer – when it flopped – but it has since become a sizable hit on DVD. Box office total to date: $15.7 million. Jeremy Renner stars.

The Ghost Writer Ewan McGregorThe Ghost Writer with Ewan McGregor as the title character. In spite of enthusiastic reviews, Roman Polanski’s political thriller turned out to be a box office disappointment.

Roman Polanski’s mystery thriller The Ghost Writer loses steam after going wider

Also this past weekend at the domestic box office, Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer, winner of the Best Director Silver Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, earned a disappointing $1.2 million at no. 15 on the chart.

Playing at 224 theaters – 77 more than a week ago – on its fourth weekend out, the Summit Entertainment release was actually down 5 percent, averaging a just so-so $5,469 per location. That means the $45 million political mystery thriller won’t be expanding much further.

The silver lining: Like previous Polanski efforts, The Ghost Writer should perform far better elsewhere. A couple of examples: Oliver Twist ($2.1 million domestically in 2005) went on to gross more than $40 million internationally; The Pianist ($32.6 million domestically in 2002), which earned Polanski the Best Director Oscar, took in an estimated $87.5 million overseas.

The tale of a corrupt former British prime minister (based on Tony Blair) with decomposing skeletons in his past, The Ghost Writer features Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan (Robert Pattinson’s father in Remember Me, another disappointing Summit release), Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, James Belushi, Oscar winner Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, 1980), two-time Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom, 2001; Michael Clayton, 2007), and veteran Eli Wallach (Baby Doll, The Misfits).

International market helps to some extent

Update: Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer ended its domestic run with $15.5 million. A definite disappointment, considering the film’s solid first couple of weeks and the fact that it received mostly glowing notices from U.S. critics.

Internationally, the eventual European Film Award winner raked in an okay $44.8 million (likely incomplete), for a worldwide total of $60.3 million. Its top international markets were France ($7.9 million), Spain ($7.1 million), the United Kingdom/Ireland ($5.7 million), Italy ($4.8 million), and Germany ($3.1 million).

If budget reports are accurate – the aforementioned $45 million – and international figures are close to complete, that would make The Ghost Writer an unquestionable commercial dud.


“Oscar Box Office Effect” endnotes

Unless otherwise noted, “Oscar Box Office Effect Benefits Only 3 Movies” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should usually be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources.

Comments about Crazy Heart, The Blind Side, The Hurt Locker, The Ghost Writer, and other titles being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production cost), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the Hollywood studios, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).

Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, international pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses can be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is accounted for). Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take; however, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.

Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jeff Bridges Crazy Heart movie image: Lorey Sebastian | 20th Century Fox.

Ewan McGregor The Ghost Writer movie image: Summit Entertainment.

“Oscar Box Office Effect Benefits Only 3 Movies” last updated in July 2022.

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