One has to go back to 1989 to find a year in which none of the five Best Picture candidates were over $100 million at the box office at the time of nominations. Of course, we are four box office weekends away from the announcement of nominations this year. But even with expansions of The Aviator, Million Dollar Baby, Phantom of the Opera and at the end of the period, Sideways, none of the contenders, except long-shots The Incredibles and Fahrenheit 9/11 will even be close to $100 million.
The 1989 group and its box office at the time of the nominations announcements...
Dead Poets Society - $95,860,116 - 1109 screens
Field of Dreams - $64,431,625 - 1100 screens
Born on the Fourth of July - $48,358,094 - 1315 screens
Driving Miss Daisy - $32,941,528 - 1302 screens
My Left Foot - $65,732 - 50 screens
Driving Miss Daisy would go on to win and to be the only $100 million film in the group, over $30 million of it after it won and over $40 million between nominations and the win. Born on the Fourth of July also got a bump, but only about $21 million total after nominations. And My Left Foot, a classic Miramax effort, got to almost $15 million on the power of a nomination.
1989 was a very different box office year than 2004, with eight $100 million films before Oscar... four sequels and Batman, Look Who's Talking, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids and Parenthood, which was expected to make the cut and did not.
This year, there are nineneen $100 million movies already, with a few more to come out of this month, before any Oscar jumps. Amazingly, only four are sequels. But even with that much commerciality, only Collateral, Fahrenheit 9/11, The Passion of The Christ and The Incredibles are considered worthy even of consideration from that group.
So what does that mean for this year's nominations? Well, not much. You can't change the numbers.
It does mean that Ray may want to start a whispering campaign about it being the most financially successful of the serious candidates, which it certainly will remain in the next two nomination voting weeks.
It's another arrow in the quiver of Harvey Weinstein and Michael Moore as they continue to push F9/11.
Andit gives a good argument to the Hotel Rwanda team for status as the My Left Genocide of the season. (Wouldn't that be ironic, given that Terry George and Jim Sheridan are professionally tied at the hip.)
The thing is, there is no way of effectively getting these ideas out into the minds of Academy voters in the next 12 days... and that's all that's left. Besdies which, do Academy voters really think about these details or do they just plain vote for what they like, with the simple exception of not feeling like they are wasting their vote?
And isn't it ironic that, even with screeners, even with lowered box office expectations, it still looks like neither Lions Gate, Newmarket, or the youngest of the Dependents, Warner Indie and Focus will make it to the big slot at the big show this year? And two of the likely nominees, The Aviator and Ray, were truly independently financed, but released by major distributors (as with Oscar, Miramax is a major).
I would say that the results of the Academy move to February are cool... very cool indeed.