Universal and Sony hope to push their contenders past $100 million mark while NEON expands the Korean nominee this weekend
Several films in this year’s Best Picture Oscar race have already finished their theatrical runs, but three contenders could get a box office boost from Monday’s nominations. Those films are Neon’s “Parasite,” Sony’s “Little Women,” and the film that just earned a No. 1 wide opening, Universal’s “1917.”
Of those three films, “1917” has the biggest potential to capitalize on its 10 nominations. Sam Mendes’ World War I action film opened domestically to $36.5 million this past weekend, with $60 million grossed worldwide. Universal is following in the path of films like “American Sniper” and “La La Land,” releasing a critically acclaimed film late in the calendar and using the ensuing word of mouth from limited release and Golden Globe success to build into a strong wide theatrical run in January.
“It’s a strategy that really allows films to build interest in December without competing directly against the holiday blockbusters,” Universal Domestic Distribution President Jim Orr told TheWrap. “And that’s especially the case when you have a quality film like the one we did. We’re so amazed with the work Sam Mendes and his team did and we’re thankful for our partners at Amblin and DreamWorks that helped us make this film happen.”
When the Academy announced that it would move up the airdate for the Oscars to Feb. 9, the Sunday after the Super Bowl, there was some concern that it would decrease the amount of time that late releases like “1917” would have to capitalize off its Oscar nominee status. But Orr feels that the opposite effect may be seen.
“I think that this just makes it more of a must-see film. It decreases the chance of people losing interest by the time the Oscars air and makes it more likely that people make an effort to see it as soon as possible,” he said.
Also potentially increasing the film’s upside is its generally even performance across age demographics. While the 25-34 group was the leading demo with 29%, 18-24 and 55+ moviegoers were evenly represented at 18% each. This could help spread word of mouth across a wider range of potential moviegoers and keep the audience pool large through the rest of the month.
Meanwhile, “Little Women” will aim to return to the top five on the box office charts next weekend after dropping to No. 6 with $7.6 million in its third weekend. So far, the Greta Gerwig adaptation of the classic 19th century novel has grossed $74 million domestic and $107 million worldwide.
“Little Women” will certainly be one of the most talked about contenders on Monday, both for its Best Picture nomination and a Best Director snub for Greta Gerwig that has left that category with an all-male field. As expected, the audience for the Sony/Columbia release has skewed female, but has also yielded repeat viewings from fans of both Gerwig and members of the film’s loaded cast like Saoirse Ronan and Meryl Streep.
A high profile snub can be just as much a box office magnet for a film as a nomination, and while Gerwig has been nominated for her screenplay, her absence from the Best Director list will center “Little Women” around the renewed conversation about female directors’ struggle in Hollywood over the next few weeks. In 2015, “Selma” got a big box office boost in January after its snubs in several categories kickstarted #OscarsSoWhite, and a similar trend might occur with “Little Women,” especially if it prompts some male moviegoers who have ignored the film until now to buy a ticket.
Finally, Neon will bring “Parasite” back to more theaters to take advantage of its six nominations, the first ever Best Picture nomination for a Korean film. Released in the U.S. way back in mid-October, “Parasite” has grossed $25 million in the U.S., standing among the likes of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Life Is Beautiful” as one of the top 10 highest grossing foreign, non-English imports in domestic box office history.
Currently screening on 345 theaters, Neon plans to expand the film in the hopes that Oscar completionists and interested moviegoers who have put off seeing Bong Joon-ho’s thriller will have their curiosity renewed by the Oscar announcement. The film is approximately $8 million away from taking the No. 5 spot on the domestic foreign language box office list, currently held by 2001 Oscar nominee “Amelie” with $33 million.