Oscar Bait Roundup: Slumdog Millionaire Is Not In The Slums Anymore

I’m not sure if you are aware, but I’m not a fan of the Academy Awards. They’re pretentious and self-important, and they often award films that are truly depressing and pessimistic. This would all be forgivable if the actual awards show were at least entertaining, but no- The Oscars Awards is the single most boring, drawn-out telecast on TV each year (and that includes American Idol results shows). By the time they finally arrive, at the very end of Awards Season, you can already predict each and every winner, and I think the fact that everybody fawns over them so much makes me dislike them a little bit, as well. That’s not to say that many of the films that are rewarded are not good, I just find The Academy to be an extremely overrated entity.

But oh well, I’m a box office blogger, and I’m committed to serving you with analysis about how much money movies are making, and whether or not I care, The Oscars (and other awards shows) definitely mater when it comes to how much money a movie makes. If you need an example, look to 2004’s Million Dollar Baby or 2007’s Juno, two films that never could have broken the $100 million barrier without the awards boost. It works the other way around too. Oscar voters can’t vote on movies that they haven’t seen, so earning more at the box office can definitely contribute to a movie’s chances at a nomination and win. Because of these factors, I thought it might be useful to delve into the performance of the current releases that have been labeled as front-runners in the Oscar race. All of these films, with the very notable exception of Benjamin Button, are either in limited release or in the process of expanding.

Among Oscar bait, the most impressive performance may look like David Fincher’s The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, which certainly had a great opening weekend, but that film came with Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and a ton of promotion. To me, when I look at this weekend’s numbers, I am without a doubt most impressed by Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. Even after expanding into a release of 614 theaters, it was still able to to earn a fantastic per theater average of $7,006. When you consider the fact that Slumdog Millionaire has been playing for seven weeks, that number is even more amazing. Meanwhile, films like The Reader, Milk, and Frost/Nixon are newer and have lower theater counts, but still have smaller per theater averages. Now, these films aren’t doing poorly, they just aren’t having the kind of Cinderella run that Slumdog Millionaire is having. To be clear, audiences are in love with this movie, its reviews are amazing, and it’s chugging along at the box office. I attribute a lot of its success to the fact that it has a happy ending. People love seeing an awards-caliber film that leaves them feeling hopeful and happy, and Fox Searchlight (who was distributing Juno this time last year) understands that. I wish it all the success in the world.

On the complete other end of the spectrum is Revolutionary Road, a movie about miserable people being miserable. The reunion of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio is attractive, and enough for a great opening gross from just three theaters, but the story will limit its potential tremendously, both awards-wise (not even Oscar-voters are that depressed, but I expect some acting nods) and financially. Meanwhile, there’s The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky’s critically beloved film starring Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei. This movie falls somewhere between Slumdog Millionaire and Revolutionary Road in terms of tone and box office potential. Even with incredible reviews, I think the story may be a bit too sad for this to truly break out, but the ultimately heroic spirit of Mickey Rourke’s super-buzzy performance will keep earning this one earning money at a slow burn for some time. It’s started off very strongly. Finally, Clint Eastwood’s drama Gran Torino has started off very strongly, but its reviews have not been as good as everyone was expecting. It will be interesting to see whether its massive buzz can overcome reviews that, for Eastwood, are just “okay.” In conclusion, even though I’m still looking for Wall-E to take Best Picture, here are the weekend’s results for what I’m calling Oscar bait:


Oscar-Seeking Titles for December 26-28 2008

# Movie Title Wk 3-Day Gross
Theaters PTA Total RT Reviews
3 The Curious Case
Of Benjamin Button
1 $26,853,816 2,988 $7,457 $38,725,647 73%
10 Doubt 3 $5,339,742 1267 $4,214 $8,484,863 76%
13 Slumdog Millionaire 7 $4,301,870 614 $7,006 $19,476,395 94%
15 Gran Torino 3 $2,322,781 84 $27,652 $4,220,824 73%
16 Milk 5 $1,762,638 311 $5,668 $13,533,585 93%
18 Frost/Nixon 4 $1,355,186 205 $6,611 $3,539,426 90%
21 The Reader 3 $664,013 116 $5,724 $1,243,690 57%
22 The Wrestler 2 $387,530 18 $21,529 $907,631 98%
28 Revolutionary Road 1 $189,911 3 $63,304 $189,911 68%
30 Rachel Getting Married 13 $131,440 65 $2,022 $10,017,383 87%

What do you think about the Academy Awards? Do they matter to you, or do judge movies for yourself? Is anyone with me on the Wall-E train? Be a critic in the comments!

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3 Responses to “Oscar Bait Roundup: Slumdog Millionaire Is Not In The Slums Anymore”

  1. Cole Says:

    I think that what matters most about a movie is that it is entertaining and people leave the theater enjoying what they have watched (under this definition a movie can be sad and still be good, but it should not be so sad the viewer leaves depressed). I have not watched most of the movies on your list with current box office numbers but one movie I thought was very good from earlier this year is The Dark Knight. I know there have been complaints about plot holes and that it may have been a little too long but it was very entertaining. The box office number is a good indicator of how much people liked the movie, as I believe it had the second highest all time U.S. gross. Do you think TDK has any chance of winning best picture?On a different note I am glad to have discovered this blog (thanks to Ryan Holiday mentioning it) and I hope you continue to update.

  2. Grady Smith Says:

    Hey Cole, welcome to the site! I too, would LOVE to see The Dark Knight get a nomination.I’m thinking it’s going to be duking it out with Wall-E for the last spot, which is often reserved for a more mainstream film. I’m thinking that five out of these seven will be nominated: Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Wall-E, and The Dark Knight. We’ll have to wait and see!Oh, and a big thanks to Ryan Holiday as well, he’s sent me a lot of traffic!

  3. rwedo Says:

    The 81st Oscars ceremony this year was very intresting. Really great films were presented there. I watched almost all films from this ceremony, of course my favorite is Slumdog Millionaire. I found it here http://rapid4me.com/?q=Slumdog+Millionaire

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