The usual box office boost from Oscar nominations largely failed to materialize for this year’s Best Picture nominees, as none of them even grossed over $1 million in theaters this weekend.
Of all the nominees that screened this weekend, the highest-grossing one was MGM/United Artists’ “Licorice Pizza,” which grossed $922,500 from 1,977 theaters, its widest release yet. The next best result was Focus Features’ “Belfast” with just $285,000 from 928 theaters, though that film is having much better fortunes in the U.K. and Ireland, where its exploration of family life during The Troubles helped drive it to a $1.4 million weekend and a $15.2 million total in the territory, nearly double its total in the U.S.
As we noted in our WrapPRO box office column earlier this week, there are several factors that have led to this big drop in the fortunes of Oscar contenders. One is that this post-nomination weekend coincides with the Super Bowl, which historically has led to a downtick in business at the theaters.
Another is that with the Golden Globes telecast suspended by NBC and the COVID-19 omicron surge spiking during the holiday season, studios steered clear of releasing major Oscar contenders during the Christmas period. By contrast, Universal released Best Picture nominee “1917” in limited release on Christmas Day 2019, with a wide release just after its Golden Globes victory the following January.
But the biggest factor, of course, is the one that has plagued theaters ever since they reopened: older audiences are not showing up nearly as much as they used to, whether due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns or simply because spending a year away from theaters has made them kick the moviegoing habit in favor of streaming.
These older audiences, who are more likely to want to see films because of an Oscar nomination, are what have boosted box office numbers for contenders after they are nominated, even if the films were first released months prior. After Oscar nominations were announced in 2020, eventual Best Picture winner “Parasite” saw its weekend numbers increase 79% to $1.7 million despite having its initial wide release in early November.
The fact that nominees released this past autumn-like “Belfast” can’t even top that $1 million mark shows how diminished the theatrical landscape has become outside of the biggest blockbusters — and the following weeks aren’t looking like they will be much better. There’s no sign that older demographics that might be interested in seeing “Drive My Car” or “West Side Story” are going to be coming back to theaters in droves in the next few weeks, and younger audiences will be more drawn to upcoming blockbusters like “Uncharted” and “The Batman.”