Oscar for Best Production Design: Why ‘La La Land’ & ‘Fantastic Beasts’ get a boost from their costumes

Best Production Design and Best Costume Design are two categories at the Oscars where scoring a nomination for both is critical to a film’s chances of winning either (read more on how that affects Best Costume Design here). Of the 85 times these awards have been handed out together, 60 of the Best Production Design winners were either nominated for or won Best Costume Design. Only 25 films since 1948 have won Production Design without a Costume Design nomination. So on paper this is a battle between “La La Land” and “Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them,” the only two films nominated in both contests.

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The academy first started awarding Production Design (previously known as Best Art Direction) in 1927, but did not recognize Costume Design until 1948, and since then they have been awarded a total of 85 times. From 1948-1956 and 1959-1966 the academy gave an award for both black-and-white and color films for each category. Of the 85 times these two awards have been handed out they’ve been awarded together 43 times, from the beginning in 1948 (black and white) when “Hamlet” won both to last year when “Mad Max: Fury Road” swept both. So winning in either category can depend on your film being nominated in the other category.

Only two films scored both a Production Design and Costume Design nomination: “La La Land” and “Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them.” But both films have major hurdles to clear in order to win an Oscar for Production Design. “La La Land” is set in modern day Los Angeles, and typically voters prefer period films or recently films with a large amount of CGI (i.e. “Avatar” in 2009, “Hugo” in 2011). “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a “Harry Potter” prequel, is at an even greater disadvantage as none of the original eight “Potter” films ever won an Oscar regardless of the category.

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According to Gold Derby’s exclusive odds, “La La Land” is the current front-runner to win with odds of 2/9. Right on its heels is “Fantastic Beasts” in second place with odds of 11/1. “Arrival” is in a close third place with odds of 14/1. Rounding out the category are “Hail Caesar!” in fourth place with odds of 66/1 and in last place “Passengers” with odds of 80/1.

Let’s dial this down to each film’s chance based on the categories’ history of being awarded together. Before either award is handed out there is a 29.41% chance it will go to “Arrival,” “Hail Caesar!” or “Passengers” (9.80% each) based on the 25 out of 85 Production Design winners that lacked a corresponding Costume Design nom. There’s a 70.59% chance it will go to “La La Land” or “Fantastic Beasts” (35.29% each) because they’re nominated for both.

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If “La La Land” should win Costume Design as expected its odds of winning Production Design increase to 50.59% because both awards have gone to the same film 43 out of 85 times. Meanwhile, the chances for “Fantastic Beasts” drop to 20% because out of the films nominated in both categories. only 17 have won Production Design without winning Costume Design. The other three films remain at 9.80% each.

But what happens if both films should lose Costume Design? If that should happen then their odds drop from the original 35.29% to 20.24% because out of 42 instances when the two categories didn’t match, only 17 times did the Production Design winner have a Costume Design nomination. And the other three films’ odds actually improve to 19.84% since 25 films during those mismatched races won Production Design after being snubbed for Costume Design. That’s a virtually dead-even five-way race for Production Design if neither “La La Land” nor “Fantastic Beasts” wins the costume contest.

If we narrow this down to just the last 15 years, 13 films (86.67%) of the winners in Production Design were also at least nominated for Costume Design, giving both “La La Land” and “Fantastic Beasts” both slightly better odds at 43.33% and the other remaining films odds of 4.44% each. If either of the two nominated should win Costume Design its probability of winning Production Design shoots up to 60.00% as nine films have won both, while the also-ran’s odds drop to 26.67%. If both should lose Costume Design their odds drop to 33.33% each. Meanwhile, “Arrival,” “Hail Caesar!” and “Passengers” would still only have an 11.11% chance as only two films have won Production Design without being nominated for Costume Design in the past 15 years.

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