The academy has been criticized in the last few years for being out of touch with regular moviegoers. Independent films that wider audiences barely see are favored over the year’s biggest commercial successes. The Oscars infamously tried to address this issue last year by creating a short-lived ‘best popular film’ category, which was rightly greeted with jeers.
Even with “Black Panther” becoming the first superhero movie nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, the problem remains prevalent. Indeed, with Alfonso Cuaron‘s “Roma” predicted to take the top prize on February 24, this issue is likely to continue for another year.
Visme, a data visualization tool, have handily illustrated this issue with a graphic comparing the domestic gross of the academy’s Best Picture winners with the highest-grossing film of the year since the turn of the century.
Since 2000, Best Picture has gone to the biggest box office hit of the year (i.e., the film that audiences saw the most) just once. That was in 2004 when Peter Jackson‘s “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” won a record-equaling 11 Oscars, including Best Picture. These totals do not take into account the worldwide takings but we have found that nothing would change in this graph had they done so.
The gap between the Best Picture winner’s earnings and the highest grosser is never small. As you can see, there are only in a few years when this margin is even relatively narrow, such as in 2001. Best Picture winner “Gladiator” couldn’t match the total of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” The difference between the two films was $120.1 million dollars – that’s the smallest gap between the two types of movies in the last 19 years. No one would argue that the latter is a better film than the former, obviously, but it’s still illuminating to see what the academy favors compared to that of the general populace.
There are some pretty big gaps on display here, too. The difference between Best Picture winner “Argo” and “The Avengers” in 2013 was $541.2 million, while in 2010 the margin between Best Picture winner “The Hurt Locker” and “Avatar” was a whopping $858.5 million. “Avatar,” though, was of course nominated for Best Picture that year, too. The biggest gap is more like a canyon and came in 2016 when “Spotlight” won Best Picture and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was the biggest audience attraction. The difference there was a massive $929.2 million.
The gap this year could be pretty sizeable.”Black Panther” was the highest-grossing film of the year with earnings of $688.7 million. The predicted Best Picture winner “Roma” has only taken in $3.5 million; it is a Netflix film and was given a very short theatrical run.
Should streaming services be allowed to give their films such a short theatrical run in order to qualify for awards? I would say no. Film are made to be seen in a cinema, so the minimum theatrical run should be increased. Otherwise “Roma” and all other films on Netflix or Amazon or another streaming service are really just TV movies, surely.
Our official odds come from a combination of five sets of Oscar predictions: film Experts, our in-house Editors who cover awards year-round, the Top 24 readers who got the top scores predicting last year’s Oscar winners, the All-Star 24 who got the highest scores for the last two years combined, and thousands of readers like you.
Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own 2019 Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on February 24.