Of all of this year’s Oscar contenders, “Green Book” has gone through the most turbulent path to its Best Picture nomination with plenty of awards wins and embarrassing headlines. Now that it has earned five Academy Award nominations, could it see a big box office bounce between now and Oscar Sunday?
Despite all of the news surrounding “Green Book,” the film itself has largely been a crowd-pleaser for moviegoers, even if it has set a slow pace on the box office charts.
After winning the audience prize at the Toronto International Film Festival, the movie earned a strong A from CinemaScore audience polls when it opened on Thanksgiving weekend. The five-day wide opening was fairly tepid at around $7 million from 1,063 screens, but the weekend totals since then have never dipped below $1 million, giving “Green Book” a running domestic total of $42.7 million against a $23 million production budget.
Now, as Universal prepares to expand the Participant Media/DreamWorks production’s screen count to 2,000+ to take advantage of the Oscar nominations in an early-year movie market with few major releases, there’s a chance that moviegoers who haven’t seen “Green Book” will buy tickets in the coming weeks to see what all the acclaim — and backlash — is about.
“There may be a lot of media backlash to this film, but regular moviegoers have shown that they really like this movie when they go see it,” said Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock.
“Sometimes, the crowd-pleasing factor just wins out, and I think we shouldn’t be surprised if we see the film have an Oscar season run over the next five weeks that matches the $42 million it has already made,” he added.
So far, “Green Book” has won the top prize at the Golden Globes and the Producer’s Guild Awards, propelling it past other acclaimed films like “A Star Is Born” to frontrunner status in the Oscar race. But along the way, the film has been beset by a huge media backlash after it was harshly criticized by the family of its subject, Dr. Don Shirley, who called the film and its depiction of the jazz musician’s friendship with driver Tony Vallelonga “a symphony of lies.”
On top of that, the film’s lead star, director, and writer have all been hit with headlines about past and present behavior. Lead star Viggo Mortensen, who received his third career Oscar nomination on Tuesday, had to apologize in November after he used the “n” word during a post-screening Q&A panel.
Then, after the film’s Golden Globe victory, director Peter Farrelly and writer Nick Vallelonga had to issue their own apologies for past behavior. Media outlets resurfaced a 1998 Newsweek article in which Farrelly openly discussed flashing his penis at actors and executives as part of a prank with his brother, Bobby. Vallelonga was found replying to a Donald Trump tweet from 2015, where he claimed that New Jersey Muslims had celebrated the Sept. 11 attacks.
It’s quite likely that “Green Book” will be the only film that gets the Oscar Bump. Of the other contenders that are still in theaters, Bock says that there’s a much lower ceiling on how much those films can make compared to “Green Book.”
Fox Searchlight’s “The Favourite,” has performed well on the indie front, with $23.7 million grossed from a maximum screen count of 810, and is tied with “Roma” with a field-leading ten nominations. But Bock said that it isn’t likely to earn the interest of casual moviegoers as Yorgos Lanthimos’ surreal approach is an acquired taste, and expects the film to finish its theatrical run with a $45-50 million domestic total.
Meanwhile, Annapurna will try to turn major nominations for “Vice” into renewed moviegoer interest after earning nods for Best Picture, Actor and Director. That renewed interest will be a necessity as the $60 million Dick Cheney biopic has only made $40 million after a month in theaters.
“Because of the political nature of that film, I think that most of the people who were interested in ‘Vice’ have already seen it,” Bock said. “‘The Big Short’ had a subject matter that allowed it to perform well in both red states and blue states. That’s definitely not going to be the case with a film about Dick Cheney.”
In addition, “Roma” has planted its stakes on Netflix after a brief theatrical engagement to qualify for the Oscars, and the other contenders have already earned its fortunes. “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “A Star Is Born,” each earned over $200 million, while “Black Panther,” the biggest domestic release of 2018, took a boggling $700 million. In fact, according to comScore, those three films account for 87 percent of the $1.26 billion grossed domestically by this year’s Best Picture nominees.