Are the Academy becoming more esoteric?

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Our lovely duty manager, Nimo, said last month that she “can’t wait for there to be all eyes on the film world” during Oscar season. “Everybody has a sudden interest in film as art than just entertainment,” she added.

This idea that the glitz of the Academy Awards gets the movie-going public looking for something beyond the big-bang blockbuster is a noble one. And, it certainly may be true for some. But, when we crunched the box office takings of the past 20 Best Picture Oscar Winners, it became clear this may not be true en masse.

The overall box office take of the last 10 year’s Best Picture winners (2002-2012) has dipped nearly 40% from the decade before (1991-2001). So such films as Argo (2012), Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and Crash (2004) raked in a worldwide total of £2.1bn – significantly lower than the £3.2bn made by the likes of Gladiator (2000), Schindler’s List (1993) and American Beauty (1999). It can be argued that the nineties had James Cameron’s cash-cow, Titanic (1997), but the noughties still claim the billion-dollar gross of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003). So, this is a fair gap that’s worth exploring.

It could mean that people have become less interested with the Awards Season or the films just aren’t up to scratch. But, as history shows (*cough* Transformers *cough*), box office taking does not guarantee quality. If we applied the same cross-decade test on Rotten Tomatoes, team 2002-2012’s average scores trumps team 1991-2001 by six percentage points. So, the last 10 Best Picture winners have made less money but have better reviews than the 10 before. This may be a stretch, but, on this evidence, we could argue that the Academy are developing a bigger flavour for the underdog, or are becoming more esoteric.

None of the previous decade’s winners took lower that $150m (£92m) yet 2009’s The Hurt Locker scooped the top gong after a paltry $49m (£30m) worldwide take. 2005 winner Crash made $98m (£60m) and next up the ladder was 2011’s The Artist, which took $35m (£21m) more. The lowest of the previous decades was 1992 Western, Unforgiven, which took $159m (£97m) – a massive amount for that time.

DVD and VHS sales may tell a different story but surely Nimo was talking about the thrill of the Awards Season as it happens, not 6 months later. There’s the build-up, the predictions, the watch list building and, lastly, the red carpet. So, cinematic purists will be happy to hear that the Academy may be starting to reward more quality than quantity.

This could mean the Academy will take a closer look at such foreign films as Wadjda or Blue is the Warmest Colour. Or, it could mean they may be less prone to be swept away by the buzz of Gravity and devote more attention to other wildcard options like Blue Jasmine or Captain Phillips.

There’s only one way to find out: tuning in to the Ceremony on March 2nd.


We want everyone to get involved this awards season, so we’ve introduced another £3.50 ticket day – Oscar Mondays. So every Monday until the big ceremony, all 2D tickets will be £3.50 and 3D tickets will be £5.50. Book up your tickets on http://www.genesiscinema.co.uk.

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