Box Office: Which Oscar Contenders Are Getting the Biggest Bump?

3:38 PM 2/26/2016

by Pamela McClintock

A nomination for best picture in January can be worth its weight in gold, and this year was no exception for the majority of the eight films vying for the top price at Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony, as an analysis of their post-nomination grosses reveals.

'The Big Short,' 'Room,' 'The Revenant'
'The Big Short,' 'Room,' 'The Revenant'

Lenny Abrahamson's acclaimed indie drama Room had all but disappeared from theaters by mid-January, earning $5.1 million from select theaters since opening at the U.S. specialty box office Oct. 16.

But after landing four nominations, including best picture, when the Oscar nominations were announced on Jan. 14, the movie got a second life and expanded nationwide for the first time — adding $7.5 million to its coffers through Feb. 21. Fifty-nine percent of its gross came post-nominations, proving that a coveted best-nomination can be worth its weight in gold, particularly for smaller titles struggling to compete with more mainstream fare.

"This year seems to be stronger than usual in that regard," says comScore box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "Many of the films in the best-picture race have all to varying degrees been able to make the most of Oscar attention, particularly in the immediate wake of the nominations announcements."

The big exception was Mad Max: Fury Road, which was long gone from theaters, while Bridge of Spies and The Martian were headed out or on DVD.

As a class, the eight best picture contenders have earned $772.6 million domestically through Sunday, Feb. 21, for an average of $96.6 million, one of the better showings in recent years. And that doesn't count international results. All grosses are through Feb. 21.

Source: comScore

  • 'The Revenant'

    Post-Oscar noms: 67 percent of total domestic gross

    'The Revenant'
    'The Revenant'
    Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

    The biggest winner was Alejandro G. Inarritu's movie, which has earned 67 percent of its $165.2 million domestic gross since Oscar nominations, or $111 million. The movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, had the advantage of expanding nationwide on Jan. 8. If it wins best picture, The Revenant will be the biggest grossing film to win the top prize since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003. It will also be the first time in history that a movie from the same director has collected back-to-back Oscars for best picture (last year, Inarritu's Birdman won). The Revenant, from New Regency and Fox, has grossed a hearty $217.3 million to date overseas for a worldwide total of nearly $384 million.


  • 'Room'

    Post-Oscar noms: 59 percent of total domestic gross

    Courtesy of George Kraychyk/A24

    Room opened in select theaters on Oct. 16 and didn't play in more than 198 locations until Oscar nominations. The movie, distributed by A24 films, has earned $12.7 million through Feb. 21 in the U.S. after aggressively increasing its footprint. At its widest, Room played in 862 theaters. The film is the lowest-grossing title among the best-picture candidates. Overseas, Room has earned another $8.5 million for a global total  $21.2 million.

  • 'Brooklyn'

    Post-Oscar noms: 36 percent of total domestic gross

    Fox Searchlight Pictures

    Fox Searchlight's Brooklyn, which first opened in select theaters Nov. 4, saw its fortunes improve considerably after being nominated for best picture. It took in 36 percent of its total after the Jan. 14 noms. The John Crowley-directed movie, starring best actress nominee Saiorse Ronan, has since earned $12.6 million for a domestic total of $35.4 million, nearly catching up with Spotlight. It has yet to open overseas.


  • 'The Big Short'

    Post-Oscar noms: 34 percent of total domestic gross

    'The Big Short,' Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

    Adam McKay's financial dramedy The Big Short expanded nationwide over Christmas weekend after playing first in select theaters. The Paramount movie more has earned 34 percent of its $67.1 million domestic total since nominations. Overseas, the tale of the 2008 financial collapse has grossed another $54.3 million for a worldwide cume north of $121 million to date.

  • 'Spotlight'

    Post Oscar noms: 24 percent of total domestic gross

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Tom McCarthy's Spotlight, about The Boston Globe investigation into clergy abuse within the Catholic Church, didn't fare as well as some of its competitors when it came to basking in a post-nomination glow. Part of the reason? It had already banked more than some of the other players. Post-noms, it added $9.3 million to its earnings, or 24 percent of its total gross, which stands at $38 million, ahead of Brooklyn and Room. Overseas, the film has earned $19.8 million for a global total of nearly $58 million. Open Road Films is handling the movie in the U.S.

  • 'Bridge of Spies'

    Post Oscar noms: 2 percent of total domestic gross

    Courtesy of DreamWorks and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks, was winding down its run in theaters when nominations were announced, but added another $1.4 million before being released on DVD Feb. 2. The movie has grossed $72.2 million domestically and another $92.1 million overseas, where it's still in release, for a a global total of $164.3 million. The DreamWorks movie was distributed by Disney in the U.S., and Fox overseas.


  • 'The Martian'

    Post Oscar noms: 1 percent of total domestic gross

    Giles Keyte/Twentieth Century Fox

    It's impressive that Ridley Scott's The Martian made anything in theaters after the Jan. 14 nominations, considering it was became available digitally and on DVD Jan. 12. A smattering of theaters still carried the movie, and it earned another $1.7 million, or 1 percent of its $228.3 domestic gross. The space epic, starring Matt Damon, has taken in $391.4 million overseas for a global total of $619.7 million — by far the top number of any of this year's best-picture contenders.




  • 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

    Post Oscar noms: No additional domestic gross

    Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

    Mad Max: Fury Road, from director George Miller, never had a chance to ride the box-office bump, since it opened in May and was long gone from the marquee. The movie was a bright spot for Warner Bros. in 2015, grossing $153.6 million and $219.5 million overseas for a worldwide cume of $373.1 million, the third-best showing of the best-picture nominees behind The Martian and The Revenant. As with those two films, home entertainment sales were surely boosted by being part of the Oscar discussion.