Oscar 2000 - Box Office Preview

Publicists, studio executives, actors, agents, filmmakers, and entertainment reporters were awake bright and early on Tuesday morning in Hollywood as the nominations for the film industry's most prestigious honors were announced. Leading the way with eight Academy Award nods was the quirky tale of a dysfunctional suburban family in American Beauty from DreamWorks. Grabbing seven nominations a piece were Miramax's The Cider House Rules, which opened a few eyes with its tally, and Buena Vista's The Insider which has been a critical favorite since its November release.

But which films are in the best position to turn their Oscar nominations into box office gold? Even if a film does not win any major Academy Awards, securing some important nominations allows a distributor to promote the picture in a new way in order to attract more moviegoers in the six-week period between the announcement of nominations and the night of the awards ceremony which this year falls on March 26. Of course, those who actually win the big prizes can continue their box office glory well past Billy Crystal's farewell to a global television audience that Sunday night.

With three Golden Globe awards for picture, director, and screenplay, and now eight Oscar nods, American Beauty is clearly seen as the front-runner among the nominees and can truly capitalize on its accolades. Though only playing in a handful of theaters now, the Kevin Spacey-Annette Bening picture will relaunch in theaters nationwide this Friday backed by a new advertising campaign trumpeting its nominations. American Beauty has plenty of upside potential. With a $74.8M domestic gross, the Sam Mendes film has reached a sizable audience so far, but can still tap into a large pool of mainstream moviegoers who prefer the overwhelming approval of the Academy before being convinced to go see an offbeat film. Reaching $100M seems very likely, especially if it can win Best Picture and some other major trophies. Overseas, where American Beauty is a newer release, the movie should cross the $50M mark this week and sustain strong holds as film buffs journey to their local cinemas to see what the fuss is all about.

Nobody campaigns harder than Miramax during awards season and its film The Cider House Rules has now come up with a surprising seven Oscar nominations including ones for picture, director, and screenplay. The inspirational story has had a moderate run at the box office never quite managing to enter the top ten or gross $4M on any given weekend. But its depreciations have been small due to solid reviews and positive word-of-mouth so a new marketing push could bring it to the attention of a whole new audience which missed it originally in the clutter of award-worthy pictures.

Moviegoers had their chance to see The Insider but the Michael Mann drama grossed a disappointing $26.7M and will probably not benefit too much from its seven nominations. Buena Vista stablemate The Sixth Sense became one of the biggest blockbusters of all time last year grossing $279.6M to date. The studio upped its theater count to 831 this past weekend in anticipation of some Academy Award nods. The supernatural thriller has already been seen by most everyone but some repeat business could help keep it afloat in the weeks ahead.

The Talented Mr. Ripley and The Green Mile have also found their audiences during the last two months so their Oscar nods should not lead to a big spike in sales. The Hurricane scored just one nomination for actor Denzel Washington, but it is currently the widest release among nominees so it may see very small declines in the weeks ahead.

In the past, top nominees have certainly made the most of their Oscar nods riding a wave of publicity that added millions to the coffers. Last year's Best Picture winner Shakespeare in Love collected only $36M by the time nominations were announced, then doubled its cume to $73M by Oscar night, and finished its domestic run with just over $100M. Chief rival Saving Private Ryan, which had already enjoyed a blockbuster run in the summer and fall months, countered with $195M at announcement time, then $210M by Oscar Sunday, and finished with $216M.

Two years ago, when Titanic monopolized the box office as well as the award shows, the iceberg romance sailed into Academy Award nomination day with $337M, steamed full speed ahead to $495M by Oscar Monday, and concluded its historic domestic voyage with $601M. As Good As It Gets, which won awards for both Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, went from $92M to $126M to $148M. And Good Will Hunting, which scored Screenplay and Supporting Actor trophies, rallied from $68M to $116M to $138M.

One non-Oscar factor that could stand in the way of this year's films seeing hefty gains is the avalanche of new releases heading into theaters in the weeks ahead. Nearly a dozen new movies are set to invade multiplexes everywhere in the next three weeks including four competitors this Friday alone. However, with a number of feature films getting the stamp of approval by the Academy, look for many moviegoers to go and sample the best that Hollywood had to offer in 1999.

The table below lists some of the major Oscar nominees and their box office performance as of February 13, 2000:

Nods Film Cume ($M) Theaters Distributor
8 American Beauty 74.8 7 DreamWorks
7 The Cider House Rules 22.7 802 Miramax
7 The Insider 26.7 36 Buena Vista
6 The Sixth Sense 279.6 831 Buena Vista
5 The Talented Mr. Ripley 77.9 1266 Paramount
4 Topsy Turvy 3.2 224 USA Films
4 The Green Mile 124.4 2012 Warner Bros.
3 Being John Malkovich 21.4 173 USA Films
3 Magnolia 20.5 497 New Line
2 Boys Don't Cry 3.7 25 Fox Searchlight
1 The Hurricane 42.4 2078 Universal

Updated : February 15, 2000

Written by Gitesh Pandya