Mar 10, 2024 - Business

Small to medium budget films dominate the Oscars

Budget of Oscar best picture nominees and winners
Source: The Numbers, IMDBPro; Note: Films with unavailable production budgets have been omitted (<2%); Chart: Deena Zaidi and Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

More than half of "Best Picture" contenders at the Oscars are small-budget films.

By the numbers: In the past 50 years, over 60% of Best Picture films reported a production budget of $50 million or less, according to data from The Numbers and IMDB, a movie database.

  • The trend to nominate films with modest budgets continues this year with nominees like Anatomy of a Fall ($6.2 million) and Past Lives ($12 million); they're competing against big budget movies like Killers of the Flower Moon ($200 million), and Barbie ($145 million).
  • In 2022, "Everything Everywhere All at Once" won the Best Picture with a budget of close to $25 million, after rubbing shoulders with "Avatar: The Way of Water" which took a massive $350 million to bring to theaters.
  • Since 2013, all Oscar winners have been low- to-medium- budget films: the most recent winners include CODA (2021) and Nomadland (2020).
  • Only 10 percent of nominees with budgets over $200 million have won an Oscar, including Titanic (1997).

The big picture: While inflation blurs budget distinctions, major studio film costs typically hover around $65 million, Investopedia notes.

What's next: Future "Best Picture" nominees will require longer theatrical runs in more U.S. cities, according to updated criteria the Academy laid out last year. That may leave smaller indie films at a disadvantage.

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