Oscar-Nominated Films Make More Money, New Study Shows

Jeffrey Totey

"Oscar award-winning film" is a nice tagline that every director and studio would like to see attached to the movie posters of their films. And we see it every year after the Academy Awards as many of that year's contenders are still in the multiplexes. But does the added title actually make the film more popular and more profitable? According to IBISWorld, yes.

In a recent press release, IBISWorld ("the nation's most trusted independent source of industry and market research") compared how Oscar nominations affected sales at the box office before and after the awards over the past five years. It is no surprise that Oscar-nominated movies were able to capture the attention of ticket-goers and squeeze out a few more bucks, but to what extent is pretty surprising.

In the past five years, films that won the title of Best Picture at the Academy Awards made a hefty increase of tickets sales after the ceremony to the tune of $10.3 million on average. Those that were nominated but did not win, averaged about $3.9 million.

"Movies that secured a Best Picture nomination from the 2010 to 2015 award seasons had an average budget of $45.6 million and total gross box office sales of $98.9 million, representing 53.9 percent gross profit from box office sales alone," says IBISWorld. "The Movie and Video Production industry as a whole earned $34.1 billion in 2015, with an average profit margin of 14.8 percent, including post-box office DVD and streaming sales."

But bigger isn't always better. Small films with even smaller budgets benefit from the Oscars as well. This year the film Room was nominated for Best Picture. The film had originally released in October of 2015 and produced about $5.2 million in box office sales. After the nomination was announced, theaters who offered showings of the film increased four times and has made an additional $7.4 million so far.

As it stands now, it is always a gamble for studios to take a chance on an unknown director with an unknown cast. These findings might be enough to push studios to make more independent films with smaller budgets. Of course, the trick here is that the film has to be good. Oscar-nomination good.

The IBISWorld study also shows that while it may be an honor just to be nominated, it is a lot better to win. In the past five years, films that were up for an Oscar for Best Picture, but did not win that title, additional box office receipts pretty much go away altogether.

"These movies generated an average of 70.1% of box office revenue before the Oscar nominees were announced, 26.1% once they were nominated and only 3.7% after the awards," says IBISWorld.

To compare the last five year's Best Picture Oscar hopefuls, The Martian did the best with $228.3 million in gross box office sales. According to IBISWorld, American Sniper, Gravity and Inception did better, but none of them received the golden hardware.

In addition, four nominees for Best Picture (Amour, Hugo, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and The Tree of Life) didn't profit from their films, nor did they win the Oscar. In addition, The Tree of Life had a budget of $32 million and was in the running for three Oscars. It didn't win any of them and the film ended about halfway in the red. As many have suspected, just because a film has a large budget doesn't mean that it will automatically take home an Oscar.

IBISWorld stresses, "These data do not prove that the voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences take box office performance into consideration during the selection process, but it may suggest that Academy voters cannot help but root for the Hollywood underdog story when casting their ballots."

[Photo by Scot Olson/Getty Images]