Best Production Design Oscar: History favors ‘La La Land’

As everyone scrambles to finalize their Oscar predictions before next Sunday, one of the below-the-line categories that may have readers scratching their heads is Best Production Design. Is it common to just defer to the Best Picture frontrunner, “La La Land”? Is it safer to predict a fantasy film with creations we haven’t seen before, like those in “Arrival,” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” or “Passengers”? Or is the safest bet the period film that pays homage to old Hollywood, like “Hail, Caesar!”? Below, I look over the most relevant data I could find to help nail down the most likely Oscar winner.

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Although the Critics’ Choice Awards have only been handing out kudos for production design (also known as art direction) for seven years, it has become a reliable precursor in this category. Over the past seven years, five Critics’ Choice winners (72%) have gone on to win the Oscar. The other two years, the eventual Oscar winner was at least nominated here. This is great news for the current frontrunner, “La La Land,” which won the Critics’ Choice Award and leads our Gold Derby racetrack with commanding odds of 2/9. “Fantastic Beasts” and “Arrival” scored nominations here, giving them a 28% chance to play the spoiler on Oscar night (before factoring in other precursors).

Of course the BAFTA Awards hand out their own Production Design honors, and it is helpful to know that eight of the last 20 winners there (40%) have repeated at the Oscars. This year’s champ was “Fantastic Beasts.” However, a more surprising figure is that 11 of the last 20 Oscar champs (55%) were nominated, but lost at BAFTA. Meaning the statistics actually favor films that lost at BAFTA more than those that actually won, which is good news for “La La Land” and “Hail, Caesar!” Only one film has been snubbed by BAFTA in recent history and gone on to win the Oscar — “Sweeney Todd” in 2007 — which is bad news for both “Arrival” and “Passengers.”

Despite PGA/DGA/BAFTA victories, ‘La La Land’ can still ‘Crash’ at Oscars — just ask ‘Brokeback Mountain’

Finally there are the Art Directors Guild (ADG) Awards. Over the past 15 years, the ADG have separated winners in categories for Period, Fantasy or Contemporary film. In a staggering statistic, no winner of the Contemporary Film category has ever won the Oscar. Could that mean game over for this year’s winner “La La Land”?

Ten of the last 15 Oscar champs (66%) have won the ADG for Period or Fantasy film. This year’s champ for Best Period Film was “Hidden Figures,” which isn’t even nominated at the Oscars. The winner for Best Fantasy film was “Passengers,” which won out over Oscar rivals “Arrival” and “Fantastic Beasts.” Could that mean “Passengers,” which is currently dead last on our Gold Derby racetrack with 100/1 odds, is being blindly overlooked? Well, not necessarily.

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When you multiply all of these varying factors together, “La La Land” is still the favorite to win Best Production Design.  Here is the complete ranking based on historical data in this category:

1. “La La Land” – Won Critics’ Choice, Nominated at BAFTA, Won ADG for Contemporary Film

2. “Fantastic Beasts” – Nominated at Critics’ Choice, Won BAFTA, Nominated for ADG Fantasy Film

3. “Hail, Caesar!” – Nominated at BAFTA, Nominated for ADG Period Film

4. “Passengers” – Won ADG for Fantasy Film

5. “Arrival” – Nominated at Critics’ Choice, Nominated for ADG Fantasy Film

Video produced by David Janove

Predict the Oscar winners now; change them till February 26

Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films are faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before winners are announced on February 26 at 5:00 pm PT/8:00 pm ET. And join in the fierce debate over the 2017 Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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