Oscar watch: And the cash goes to...
"Brokeback Mountain" and "Walk the Line" could get a nice box office bump if they score Oscar nominations.
By Paul R. La Monica, CNNMoney.com senior writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) This is the speech that some movie studio executives should be practicing in anticipation of Tuesday's Oscar nominations announcement.

"I'd like to thank the Academy for the big box office boost we're going to get. It truly is an honor just to be nominated!"

Best Picture nominations could give a nice box office boost to
Best Picture nominations could give a nice box office boost to "Brokeback Mountain," "Walk the Line," and "Capote."

According to a 2001 study by Colby College economics professor Randy Nelson, a Best Picture nomination could garner nearly $11 million in ticket sales for a film between the day the nominations are announced and the Oscar telecast. This year's Academy Awards show takes place on March 5.

Last year, "Million Dollar Baby", which went on to win Best Picture, saw a huge spike the weekend after the nominations were announced.

According to figures from Box Office Mojo, an online movie tracking firm, "Million Dollar Baby" grossed $12.3 million in the weekend after it was nominated for Best Picture, up from just $1.66 million a week before.

Savvy timing also played a role: the film's distributor, Warner Bros., put the film in wide release the weekend after the nominations, upping the movie's availability from 147 theaters the weekend before the nominations to more than 2000 after the nominations came out. (Warner Bros. is owned by Time Warner (Research), which also owns CNNMoney.com.)

So who could be the beneficiary of a box office bump this year?

The envelope please...

Michael Coristine, a project manager for sports and entertainment at market intelligence firm Brandimensions, said his company has tracked an average of 60,000 online references of high-profile films (blogs, reviews, etc.) a week since September.

Based on this research, Coristine said the following four movies appear highly likely to get nominated for Best Picture: "Capote," "Brokeback Mountain," "Walk the Line," and "The Constant Gardener."

He added that based on the online chatter, "The Squid and the Whale," "Crash," and "Good Night, and Good Luck" are all in the running for the final Best Picture nominee.

What all these movies have in common, said Brandon Gray, president and publisher of Box Office Mojo, is that none are a huge blockbuster. So a nomination could have a truly significant financial impact.

"In days past the Academy would throw a bone to the public and nominate something super-popular. That's unlikely to happen this year," he said.

Gray said that of the likely contenders, "Brokeback Mountain," which has generated about $44 million at the box office so far, should get one of the bigger box office boosts.

The film's distributor, Focus Features, a subsidiary of GE's (Research) NBC Universal, plans to release the film in more than 1650 theaters this coming weekend, up from about 1200 a week before and just under 700 the weekend before that.

Gray said he wouldn't be surprised if Focus expands the release to more than 2000 theaters if "Brokeback Mountain" winds up receiving a Best Picture nomination.

Likely nominations for some of the film's actors, including a Best Actor nod for Heath Ledger, wouldn't hurt either. According to Nelson's study, Best Actor and Best Actress nominations could add an estimated $1 million to the box office.

"Brokeback is well poised to have a significant Oscar bump. It could pass $100 million," said Gray.

Gray added that on a percentage basis, films like "Capote" and "Good Night, and Good Luck" could also see a big improvement especially since Best Actor nominations are possible as well.

"Capote," distributed by Sony's (Research) Sony Classics studio, has generated only $14.3 million in box office in very limited release and could get an additional boost from a Best Actor nomination for Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

"Good Night, and Good Luck," distributed by Time Warner's Warner Independent Pictures, also in limited release, has taken in about $25 million in ticket sales so far and also could score a Best Actor nomination for David Strathairn.

And "The Squid in the Whale" could gain the most (percentage-wise) from a nomination. The movie, released by independent distributor IDP, has only generated $6.3 million in box office sales.

But Coristine said that even if the movie doesn't get a Best Picture nomination, online buzz is extremely favorable for stars Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney, which could bode well for possible Best Actor and Best Actress nominations.

Even "Walk the Line," the biggest hit of the likely contenders so far, could see a boost in ticket sales, Gray said. The film's two stars, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, are widely expected to receive Best Actor and Best Actress nominations.

The Johnny Cash biopic, released by News Corp.'s (Research) Fox, has grossed over $100 million, according to Box Office Mojo, good numbers but far from blockbuster status. "'Walk the Line' has done very well so far but there are still a lot of people haven't seen it. A Best Picture nomination could increase the turnout," Gray said.

Still, not all Oscar contenders are likely to get a box office bump. "The Constant Gardener," also released by Focus Features, is no longer in theaters. But its DVD could receive more interest if the movie wins some major Oscar nominations.

The movie made about $33.6 million during its theatrical run and was released on DVD on January 10. The wide-screen DVD edition of the movie currently ranks as the 10th best-selling DVD on Amazon.com and number 20 on Barnesandnoble.com.

And "Crash," released by Lionsgate (Research), is also no longer in theaters. The movie generated $53.4 million in U.S. ticket sales. The DVD, released in September, is among the top 30 best sellers on both Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com

.

For more about last year's big Oscar $ winners, click here.

2005 was a tarnished year for the silver screen. To find out why, click here.

The reporter of this story owns shares of Time Warner though his company's 401(k) plan. Top of page

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.