Best Production Design Oscar: Which time period wins the most often?

According to our Oscar experts, “La La Land” is the frontrunner to win Best Production Design (where is it not the favorite, right?) with leading odds of 2/13. Although Damien Chazelle’s film was shot in the style of the color musicals of the 1950s with the dance numbers evocative of those from the 1930s, it is set in modern day Los Angeles. But does the academy reward contemporary production design over that of period pieces or fantasy fare?

Below is a chart listing the past 20 Best Production Design winners and detailing the era in which they were set. (I don’t give exact years as we are looking for trends in time periods).

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Oscars Best Production Design 1996 - 2016

As you can see, a full half of the films were set in the first three decades of the last century, with the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression having three films each. Two epics were set in the 1770s while three films span a wide breadth of time, ranging from 20 years to 100 years. And “The Grand Budapest Hotel” briefly dipped into other time periods.

Each of London, New York and Paris was used as a setting twice while three films set entirely in a fantasy world prevailed as did “Pan’s Labyrinth,” which has fantasy sequences.

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In “La La Land”‘s favor is the fact that three other musicals — “Moulin Rouge!” (2001), “Chicago” (2002) and “Sweeney Todd” (2007) — have won this award in the past two decades. And the last contemporary film to prevail, “All that Jazz” (1979), was also a tuner.

Among this year’s other nominees for Best Production Design, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” would appear more to the academy’s liking. It is set in the New York of the 1920s and it has fantasy world elements. It is ranked third at 50/1, with “Arrival” in second at 12/1. Rounding out the race are “Hail, Caesar!” at 66/1 and “Passengers” with odds of 100/1.

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