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

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - This is the speech that some movie studio bigwigs should give after Tuesday's Oscar nominations.

"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," "Munich," 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.

So this year's Best Picture nominees, "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote," "Crash," "Good Night, and Good Luck," and "Munich" are the contenders for a big box office boost.

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 about $1.7 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 2,000 after the nominations came out. (Warner Bros. is owned by Time Warner (Research), which also owns CNNMoney.com.)

The envelope please...

What all the Best Picture nominees have in common this year, said Brandon Gray, president and publisher of Box Office Mojo, is that none of them are huge blockbusters. 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 Friday, before the nominations were announced.

Gray said that of the likely contenders, "Brokeback Mountain," which has generated about $51 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 1,650 theaters this weekend, up from about 1,200 a week before and about 700 the weekend before that.

Gray said he wouldn't be surprised if Focus eventually expands the release to more than 2,000 theaters.

Nominations for some of the film's actors, including a Best Actor nod for Heath Ledger, won't hurt either. According to Nelson's study, Best Actor and Best Actress nominations could add an estimated $1 million to a film's take at 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 they also landed Best Actor nominations.

"Capote," distributed by Sony's (Research) Sony Classics studio, has generated only $15.3 million in box office in very limited release and could get an additional boost from the 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 $25.1 million in ticket sales so far and also scored a Best Actor nomination for David Strathairn.

And "Munich," released by Universal, could also see a boost. The Steven Spielberg-directed film, which was a bit of a surprise Best Picture nominee even though it got mostly favorable reviews, has taken in about $40.6 million so far, according to Box Office Mojo.

Still, the last Best Picture Oscar contender isn't likely to get a box office bump.

"Crash," released by Lionsgate (Research), is no longer in theaters. The movie generated $53.4 million in U.S. ticket sales. But the DVD, released in September, is currently the 12th best-selling DVD on Amazon.com and ranks 23rd on Barnesandnoble.com.

Some studios had to be disappointed, though.

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

And based on this research, Coristine said the following four movies appeared most likely to get nominated for Best Picture: "Capote," "Brokeback Mountain," "Walk the Line," and "The Constant Gardener," which like "Crash," is already out on DVD.

He added that based on the online chatter, "The Squid and the Whale," "Crash," and "Good Night, and Good Luck" all seemed to be in the running for a Best Picture nomination.

But even though "Walk the Line" did not get a Best Picture nomination and is the biggest hit of what was seen as the likely Best Picture contenders, it could still see a boost in ticket sales, Gray said.

The film's two stars, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, received Best Actor and Best Actress nominations. The Johnny Cash biopic, released by News Corp.'s (Research) Fox, has grossed over $106 million, according to Box Office Mojo, good numbers but far from major blockbuster status.

"'Walk the Line' has done very well so far but there are still a lot of people haven't seen it," Gray said.

If you think you know who the big winners will be, click here to make your movie predictions.

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.

This is an update of a story that originally appeared on January 27. Top of page

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