How Much Is the Best Picture Oscar Really Worth to ‘Spotlight’?

In the two weeks since it took home the Academy Awards’ top prize, the journalism drama has boosted its theatrical box office — even though it can be watched at home

Spotlight-post Oscaar

After winning the Best Picture award for “Spotlight” two weeks ago, domestic distributor Open Road Films and foreign distributor eOne have earned far more than mere bragging rights.

“Spotlight” has taken in roughly $4.8 million — almost 11 percent of its $43 million total domestic box office haul — since its triumph on Feb. 28. And overseas, where eOne shepherded post-Oscar expansions in more than 30 foreign markets, the film added another $3.7 million this weekend, lifting its foreign grosses to $38.2 million.

That means that the R-rated drama about the Boston Globe’s uncovering of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal has grossed more than 17 percent of its $81 million worldwide box office haul since it won Best Picture. That’s especially impressive since the fact-based film directed by Tom McCarthy — who also nabbed the Best Original Screenplay Oscar with co-writer Josh Singer — has been available on VOD and on DVD since Feb. 23.

Showing confidence in the movie’s ability to pull off a mild Oscar upset over “The Revenant,” Open Road expanded “Spotlight” by 284 theaters to 685 on the weekend of the Academy Awards. The following weekend, it went on a full-fledged victory lap, adding 584 theaters, to land the drama in 1,227 locations, its widest run. This weekend, the distributor cut back the count by 380 theaters on Friday, and “Spotlight” is estimated to have taken in around $945,000.

Given the film’s $20 million production budget, that all adds up to a tidy return on investment for producers Steve Golin and Michael Sugar of Anonymous Content, and the film’s early backers, Nicole Rocklin and Blye Faust.

The film is, nonetheless, currently the sixth-lowest-grossing Best Picture winner ever. Its total is around the inflation-adjusted $47 million of 2011’s “The Artist,” which took in a whopping 29 percent of its $43 million domestic grosses after its big Oscar win.

The fine-tuning of the theater count under CEO Tom Ortenberg and distribution chief Elliot Slutzky, in conjunction with the campaign developed by chief marketing officer Jason Cassidy, attest to the effort that Open Road made to maximize the returns on the saga.

No doubt, the Oscar win has helped bring in as much money as possible.

Although the film enjoys a sterling 96 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and features a cast of respected actors including Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci, none of the stars are marquee heavyweights. And despite its pedigree, cast and accolades, “Spotlight” is still an R-rated, talky drama about a sex abuse scandal.

“Clearly, nearly every ounce of theatrical box office has been effectively extracted by the studio and eOne on behalf of the movie,” said comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “The transition from the big screen to the the small screen was perfectly timed to take advantage of the heightened profile of the film via the Oscar wins.

“There is still revenue out there to be had via on demand/home video for ‘Spotlight,’ but you can’t say that any money was left on the table for this Oscar winner.