Oscars’ Real Best Picture Winner: Which Contender Delivered Biggest Bang for the Buck?

“The Martian” was No. 1, delivering $620 million for Fox at the global box office on a $109 million production budget

Fox’s blockbuster space adventure “The Martian” delivered the biggest return on investment of any of the Best Picture Oscar-nominated movies this year, a survey by TheWrap reveals.

Starring Best Actor nominee Matt Damon and directed by Ridley Scott, “The Martian” has rolled up $620 million in worldwide grosses against a production budget of $108 million — a whopping 474 percent return.

Don’t take these numbers to the IRS, they’re approximations based solely on worldwide box-office returns vs. production budgets, and don’t factor in theater owners’ cuts, marketing costs, home entertainment returns or TV or streaming licensing deals.

“Room” would be at the lower end of the financial spectrum. The A24 thriller starring Best Actress nominee Brie Larson had a $6 million budget and has brought in $12.6 million at the domestic box office (it hasn’t played overseas), so its ROI is 109 percent.

The nominated film with the biggest budget, “Mad Max: Fury Road” at $150 million, has grossed $377 million for Warner Bros. globally, a 151 percent return.

oscar roi chart

Here’s look at the eight nominees and what a victory on Oscar night could mean to their bottom line.

“The Martian”  Since it’s already made a  ton at the box office for Fox, been available digitally since December and on Blu-ray DVD for a month, there’s not a lot of room for growth. But how do you put a dollar figure on the satisfaction a win would bring snubbed director Ridley Scott?

Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling in The Big Short

“The Big Short”  Paramount will release its dark comedy directed by Oscar nominee Adam Mckay about the U.S. financial meltdown digitally and on DVD on March 15., so its window to capitalize on a victory wouldn’t be open long. Home entertainment looks like the wiser choice for the film starring Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Supporting Actor nominee Christian Bale, since it’s pretty much played out on the coasts and the Heartland has proven a tough sell.


Twentieth Century Fox

“Brooklyn”  The tale of a young Irish immigrant (Best Actress nominee Saoirse Ronan) and her life in 1950s New York will be available digitally and on discs on March 15. The odds are against it delivering a third consecutive Best Picture Oscar for Fox Searchlight (after “Birdman” last year and “12 Years a Slave” the year before) but if it does, look for a theatrical victory lap.

Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios

“Bridge of Spies”  The Steven Spielberg-directed drama about the 1960 U-2 spy plane face-off with the Soviet Union starring Tom Hanks has been a box office hit for U.S. distributor Disney and Fox, which handled foreign. Mark Rylance (Supporting Actor) and the Coen brothers (Original Screenplay) are nominated and there might be room for a theatrical re-run even though it’s been available on DVD and digital since Feb. 2.

Spotlight“Spotlight”   With its DVD and digital release on Tuesday, Open Road Films is banking on home entertainment to capitalize should there be a Best Picture victory for Tom McCarthy’s inside look at the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize winning coverage of the Massachusetts Catholic Church sex scandal. Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams top the film’s ensemble.

Charlize Theron in Mad Max Fury Road

Warner Bros.

“Mad Max: Fury Road”  Best Director nominee George Miller took road rage to new heights in the visually spectacular sequel, which arrived 35 years after the original. Though it captured 10 Academy Award nominations, standout performers Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron were not among them, however.  It’s been out and a hit on DVD and digital since September.

The Revenant

Twentieth Century Fox

“The Revenant”   With Leonardo DiCaprio and Alejandro Inarritu up for Best Actor and Director honors respectively, and the frontier vengeance saga considered a frontrunner for Best Picture, there is potential for this one to come out of Sunday with a mountain of momentum. It’s April 12 home entertainment release date leaves plenty of time for Fox to cash in at multiplexes, too. It’s still playing well and took in nearly $4 million in its fifth weekend of release.


“Room”   Director Lenny Abrahamson and lead Larson are nominated for Oscars, and 9-year-old Jacob Tremblay probably should have been for this edgy tale of a woman and her young son held captive for years. It arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on March 1, leaving a very short window for A24 to cash in theatrically should it pull off what would rank as one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history.