Ranking Oscar Best Picture Nominees as Investments: Which Film Made Back the Most Money?

Ranking Oscar Best Picture Nominees as Investments: Which Film Made Back the Most Money?

Hint: “Her” brought up the rear

Investing in prestige movies brought a strong return-on-investment this year — especially for those who bankrolled the nine Best Picture Academy Award nominees.

When it came to the biggest bang for the buck in 2013, size mattered: “Gravity,” one of the most expensive nominees at $100 million, made that back more than six times over with $700.9 million worldwide — the highest return on investment (ROI). (That flips the script from last year, when “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” the lowest-budgeted nominee at $1.5 million, grossed $22 million — more than 10 times its budget.)

Also read: Steve Pond Explains It All: How the Oscars Voting Process Actually Works

Of course, finding out what films actually make money is nearly impossible. Theater owners get a cut of ticket sales and production budgets do not include marketing and distribution costs, but box office grosses can give a sense of which films have the best shot of turning a profit.

This year, nearly all the contenders have doubled their production budgets; four have earned north of $100 million. But they've made just shy of $800 million domestically overall, while 2012's nominees — a group that includes “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Lincoln,” and “Life of Pi” – pulled in more than $1 billion stateside.

So what other films proved to be big ROI* winners? Here's the breakdown:










*To calculate ROI for each nominee, TheWrap took the film's gross, subtracted its reported cost and then divided that figure by its budget before multiplying by 100 to get a percentage.

Note: The budget numbers listed below solely reflect each film's respective physical production costs, not marketing.

  • MD

    these ROI figures are stupid. box office does not represent proceeds back to the financiers. financiers are lucky to see 15-25% of box office after distribution fees and expenses and P&A expenses are recouped.

  • Ed

    I agree…the whole article is pointless and perhaps worse…..it is misleading to those who may want invest in movies. Articles like this leave them vulnerable to those who are happy to misrepresent the economics of the film industry. The wrap should be a bit more sophisticated and a lot more responsible in its reporting….

  • KC

    I think you all jumped the gun just so Gravity could be #1. 12 Years A Slave is still in the middle of it's foreign roll-out. Today's box office figures put 12 Years A Slave's total at $127,965,000 which makes the ROI (using your methodology) 639.8% which makes it the #1 movie for ROI. Also, when you take into consideration that the movie receieved a $4 million rebate from the state of Louisiana the amount spent to make the movie was only $16 million and that would make their ROI 799.9%. Not bad for a movie that's being tainted in the Oscar run as “brutal” and “difficult to watch”.

  • Rene Bourdages

    That is not a ROI. A ROI for the people who have put the money in the film, ie. the investors, is calculated on the amount returned to them after the theaters keep approximately half of the gross, after distributors take their 15-30% fee, after the Prints & Advertising money is repaid with a premium, after deferments, bonuses, backends to talent, after residuals and off the tops, then the equity investor can start to calculate a return.

    This kind of 4th grade calculation in a trade publication is embarassing. No wonder the film industry has a bad reputation with financiers when industry journalists exhibit such complacency and mediocrity.