America has all but recovered from the zeitgeist circus that is the Academy Awards (which this year featured a performance by an actual circus!), but the effect that Oscar has on moviegoers is still being felt at the box office, with several winning films picking up momentum after Hollywood’s big night.
Consider this: In the four days following the Oscars ceremony, The Artist – which took home Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and two other awards – rounded out its week of box office grosses up a healthy 14 percent from the week before, adding 158 theaters to its 966 and grossing $4.3 million (according to Box Office Mojo). Then this weekend rolled around, and a whopping 790 additional theaters later, the Jean Dujardin-led silent charmer has finally cracked the top 10 with a $3.6 million gross in 1,756 theaters.
Although these earnings might sound in line with expectations, it’s a limited improvement for a film that has made about $37 million domestically since its limited release at the end of November. Now at its widest release to date, The Artist has earned a spot on the chart and may linger for another weekend or two, eventually hitting $45 to $50 million, according to industry estimates. (For comparison’s sake, last year’s winner The King’s Speech had raked in about $120 million domestically at this point in its release.)
The Oscar was majorly good news for Undefeated, the Best Documentary winner which experienced a massive 337% bump this weekend, despite only adding seven theatres to bring its release up to an ultra-conservative 12. The same mirth is shared by A Separation, winner of Best Foreign Language Film, which rose 160% (almost cracking $1 million dollars) between March 2 and 4.
Unfortunately, the Martin Scorsese-helmed fantasy Hugo, which also took home five Oscars (though perhaps not ones you’ve read much about), didn’t get the same bump, nor did the Meryl Streep drama The Iron Lady, which earned her Best Actress. The Iron Lady fell 32% in the days following Streep’s third Oscar win and has been consistently falling weekly since its January wide release, despite a minor rise this weekend. While Hugo had a healthy bump of 14.5% in the week preceding the Oscars, it fell 19.4% the following week and another 14% this weekend (although Hugo has managed to stay in the top 15 for a month and a half). The silver lining is that Hugo is the only film available on DVD and at-home formats, and it’s already at the top of the iTunes charts and in the top 5 of Amazon’s Instant Video bestsellers (alongside Moneyball and The Help, no less, which have experienced their own happy successes on DVD).
Looking at Hugo’s success online and considering how much has changed this year in the realm of Netflix memberships and video-on-demand binges, perhaps the box office bump for other Oscar winners will be more visible online than it has been in theaters. The Artist will benefit from a Weinstein Company-Netflix deal and other Oscar winners may follow suit. As various methods of VOD become more prevalent, so too are the chances that Joe Moviegoer will stumble upon an Academy Award-winning flick–and actually watch it. People who had never paid attention to the Best Documentary category are now finding themselves scanning through Netflix’s most lauded or obscure, the same ones who will enthusiastically watch A Separation or Undefeated, but perhaps not patronize theaters to do so. If these Oscar winners don’t enjoy the same level of success at the box office as in years past, it may speak less about the films in question and more about the growing number of options we have to enjoy them. We’ll investigate once this year’s nominated movies make their way to Netflix, iTunes, Amazon and the rest. Stay tuned.