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Oscar Best Picture nominees have highest total box office since 2010

Tim Baysinger
Jan 24, 2023
Data: Box Office Mojo; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Box Office Mojo; Chart: Axios Visuals

The total box office gross for this year's Oscar Best Picture nominees is the highest in 13 years, led by "Avatar: The Way of Water" and "Top Gun: Maverick."

Why it matters: TV networks are struggling to validate the high price tag for award shows like the Oscars, which have been bleeding viewers amid criticism that it ignores the most popular movies.

  • Although last year's Oscars rebounded from its nadir in 2021, the 16.6 million who watched in 2022 was still the show's second-smallest audience ever.
  • This year, the two highest-grossing movies of 2022 are vying for the top prize, which could bring back some viewers.

Be smart: Driven by pandemic-era theater closures in 2020 and 2021, the majority of films that have been up for awards have not commanded huge audiences at the box office.

  • Last year's Best Picture winner, "CODA," was the first to be wholly owned by a streaming company, Apple. The year prior, "Nomadland" was the first Best Picture winner to be exclusive to streaming.
  • Outside of 2020, when Marvel's "Black Panther" was nominated, the average global box office haul for Best Picture nominees has been under $300 million over the past 10 years.
  • This year's 10 nominees have an average theater gross of nearly $400 million.

What's next: The TV contracts for the Emmys, Grammys and Tonys all run through 2026, while the Oscars' current deal expires in 2028.

  • Netflix's recent deal for the SAG Awards, which had aired for 25 years on cable, could be a look into the future of the award show industry.

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