How This Year’s Oscar Contenders Will Determine the Health of the Post-Pandemic Box Office

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Critical darlings from “Tár” to “The Fabelmans” will show us if the industry will ever fully bounce back from the pandemic

Academy Awards box office 2022

With the film festivals in Venice, Toronto and Telluride now complete, a critical period for the box office is about to begin.

Oscar contenders like Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans” and Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon,” two wide-release films with recognizable directors and casts, easy-to-market plots and plenty of awards potential seem poised to perform well in theaters for weeks if not months. And unless the spread of another COVID variant sends headlines of escalating case rates back into the news cycle this winter, the older audiences who drive specialty film box office have less reason to stay home.

While none of the films from the fall festivals will make what this winter’s big blockbuster sequels are projected to earn, the overall box office depends on several of these art-house films luring moviegoers in numbers that are comparable to the pre-pandemic era.