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Best picture nominees show streaming's Oscars takeover

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Mar 25, 2022
Oscars Best Picture nominees’ global box office sales, 2021
Data: Box Office Mojo; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Of the 10 nominees for Best Picture at Sunday's Academy Awards, only five of them received a full-throated, exclusive theatrical run.

Why it matters: Led by Netflix, streaming has been trying to punch its way into the Oscars for years.

  • When "Nomadland" won last year, it was the first time a movie that didn't premiere exclusively in theaters took home the top prize. Because of the pandemic, the Academy dropped a longstanding eligibility rule that films must premiere in theaters first.
  • The two heavy favorites for Best Picture — "The Power of the Dog" and "Coda" — had extremely limited U.S. theatrical runs. So much so that Apple and Netflix didn't even report their numbers (💭 Tim's thought bubble: They would have if they were any kind of meaningful).
  • "Dune" and "King Richard" were released day-and-date in theaters and on HBO Max. Netflix had fought theaters for years on its desire for day-and-date releases, in which a film's simultaneously released in multiple places.

By the numbers: Apple paid a record $25 million for "CODA" at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

  • Not only is the film seen as the Best Picture favorite, but actor Troy Kotsur appears primed to win for Best Supporting Actor. He would be the first deaf male actor to win in the category. Marlee Matlin, his "CODA" co-star, won Best Actress in 1987.
  • "Don't Look Up" is currently Netflix's second-most popular movie ever.

The big picture: Theatrical windows have been shrinking after many studios were forced to delay or reroute movies to streaming while theaters remained closed during the bulk of the pandemic.

  • While some popcorn movies like "Spider-Man: No Way Home" and "The Batman" have had box-office success, that's increasingly becoming an outlier.
  • Apple or Netflix taking home the top prize — a year after a movie that most people saw on Hulu was the big winner — could only further push theaters to the outskirts.
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