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Millions more for Oscar winners
Two of Sunday night's Academy Award-winning flicks are looking at another big box office boost.
February 28, 2005: 8:36 AM EST
By Chris Isidore, CNN/Money senior writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - "And the box office boost goes to...

That wasn't the way the winners of this year's Academy Awards were announced Sunday night. But it might as well have been.

The nominations already brought millions of dollars of additional ticket sales to the relatively small films that received best picture or best actor and actress nominations. But to Sunday's winners, Oscar gold will likely mean millions more at the box office.

The big victor is sure to be "Million Dollar Baby," the Clint Eastwood-directed boxing flick that took home most of the top six awards. With seven nominations and four awards, the Warner Bros. movie is looking at tens of millions of dollars in added box office receipts.

On the flip side, losing an award will mean the film will be out of the theaters and on its way to video stores fast. Think "Finding Neverland," which lost for best picture and best actor Johnny Depp, and "Being Julia," a comedy about a 1930s English stage actress that starred Annette Bening. Bening lost the best actress nod -- for the second time -- to "Million Dollar Baby" star Hilary Swank (for more Oscar coverage, click here.).

"A win definitely extends the life of the movies," said Randy Nelson, a finance professor at Colby College who has done a study about the revenue impact of Oscar nominations and wins.

Nelson's study looked at the impact in 1997 dollars. Adjusted for the increase in ticket prices tracked by BoxOfficeMojo.com, Nelson's study predicts that "Million Dollar Baby" will reap an additional $21.8 million in box office revenue for its best picture win, on top of a $10.7 million boost after getting nominated, an additional $7.6 million for Swank's best actress award, on top of the $1 million for the nomination alone.

One winning film that won't see a lift in theaters is "Ray," Universal's biopic of rhythm and blues singer Ray Charles. Jamie Foxx was anointed best actor but the film, released in October, is already on DVD.

Meanwhile, Cate Blanchett's best supporting actress win for her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in "The Aviator" and Morgan Freeman's award for best supporting actor for his "Million Dollar Baby" role will mean an extra $3.8 million -- just being nominated for those lesser awards doesn't have much impact.

The other high profile awards, for best screenplay or best director, have relatively negligible box office impact, according to Nelson.

These revenue numbers are relatively minor for the major companies such as Time Warner Inc. (Research) and Walt Disney Co. (Research) which produced and distributed most of this year's contenders. But they have a tremendous impact on the profitability of the films themselves, especially this year when there weren't any major box office blockbusters nominated.

The best grossing film of the five best picture nominees heading into the weekend was "The Aviator," which has done U.S. box office of $89.5 million, and overseas ticket sales of $72.7 million.

In fact, the five nominees together had U.S. box office of only $326.4 million; last year at this time "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" had by itself generated $361.1 million. "Return of the King" hung around theaters another three months after its win, but its box office was already so strong that it probably didn't get the boost that this year's smaller films are likely to get from a win, according to Nelson.

Nelson's a relatively objective observer of the movie industry. He said he's seen only one movie in theaters, 2003's "Something's Got to Give" over the past five years, and hasn't watched that many more films at home.

"It was totally academic interest," he said of his study.  Top of page

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