Will Oscar Nominations Give This Year’s Contenders a Box Office Boost?

With nominees like “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “A Star Is Born,” the 2018 class of movies proved the Oscars don’t need a popular films category to recognize movies that also made bank in theaters. But now that the academy has selected this year’s crop of awards hopefuls, is there any green left to squeeze out of the nominated films?

That’s something honorees like “Vice” are banking on. Annapurna is increasing the number of theaters for Adam McKay’s scathing look at former vice president Dick Cheney from 1,175 venues to over 2,000 in its sixth weekend of release. Despite nabbing eight Oscar nominations, “Vice” has largely gotten the cold shoulder from audiences, especially those in red states. The $60 million biopic has amassed $42 million so far. Awards recognition won’t necessarily fill seats in theaters, but a little pat on the back from Hollywood can’t hurt.

“This is the most hype and attention [that nominated movies] are going to receive,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “If they win, there could be another bump, but right now everyone is talking about these films.”

Analysts think “Green Book,” Universal’s road-trip comedy that has been shrouded in controversy, could have the most to gain this weekend. The studio is more than doubling the theater count, taking the movie from 912 venues to more than 2,000 locations. “Green Book” has been recognized by just about every major branch of the industry, but it hasn’t been able to translate that awards buzz into as much commercial appeal. It has made just $47 million since opening in November, a lackluster result for a movie that cost around $25 million before taking marketing into account.

“The most commercial film left that people haven’t seen is ‘Green Book,’” Bock said. “It has the most chance to earn a lot more money because it has been a little soft for the attention it’s received.”

Even films that have been out of theaters for months are trying to get back in on the action. Focus Features is re-releasing “BlacKkKlansman” this weekend in 168 venues after Spike Lee’s crime drama about a black detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan nabbed six Oscar nominations, including best picture. The studio won’t be releasing numbers, presumably because of the small screen count for a title that is already available on DVD and digital.

One film that won’t be seeing much of a bump? Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma.” (Not that it matters from a financial standpoint, considering Netflix hasn’t divulged box office grosses for the black-and-white drama.) It scored 10 nods, tying with “The Favourite” for most nominations, but AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas are leaving the sprawling coming-of-age tale that is loosely based on Cuaron’s life out of the theater chains’ annual showcase of Oscar best picture contenders. The reason in deciding not to include “Roma” stems from the streaming behemoth’s policy against the traditional 90-day window between theatrical and home release. Netflix and select theater owners did agree on a brief window before it went online, though earnings were never reported. It continues to play in several independent theaters around the country, for those who prefer the big-screen experience.

For moviegoers looking for something beyond arthouse fare, or perhaps the proactive bunch who have already seen all of this year’s best picture hopefuls in theaters, there are a few fresh offerings hoping to entice crowds. Fox’s “The Kid Who Would Be King” will have the widest new release of the weekend, debuting in over 3,400 locations.

Joe Cornish, known for writing “The Adventures of Tintin” and Marvel’s “Ant-Man,” directed the fantasy film that is expected to make between $7 million and $13 million in its first three days of release. “The Kid Who Would Be King,” geared toward a younger crowd, doesn’t have the benefit of big stars to boost the movie’s profile. It follows newcomer Louis Ashbourne Serkis, the son of actor-director Andy Serkis, as a young boy who finds King Arthur’s famed sword Excalibur. At the very least, it holds the promising distinction of being the only 2019 release so far with positive reviews, though critical reception doesn’t typically sway the target audience of a PG film.

Sometimes, even having an A-list cast isn’t enough for a movie to fly above the radar. Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway co-star in “Serenity,” this weekend’s other new title that doesn’t appear to be making waves. The neo-noir thriller from Aviron Pictures, about a fishing boat captain whose ex-wife tracks him down with a plea to murder her new husband, anticipates an opening around $7 million from 2,500 screens. Steven Knight, who previously wrote and directed “Locke” with Tom Hardy, penned and helmed “Serenity.” Global Road financed the film for $25 million before filing for bankruptcy late last year.

Even with some newcomers added to the marquee, it seems likely that last weekend’s champ, “Glass,” will be the reigning victor again. Despite tepid reviews, M. Night Shyamalan’s twisted thriller topped the domestic box office, collecting $47 million over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. The sequel to both “Unbreakable” and “Split” could rack up another $20 million in its sophomore outing, which should be enough to land the No. 1 spot in North America.

Unless the box office pulls of a plot twist of its own, January looks to be ending on a quiet note.


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