Does the 'Oscar bounce' actually exist?

What Oscar voters care about
What Oscar voters care about

Does the exposure from being nominated for an Oscar actually pay off in the form of a big bounce at the box office? The answer is yes, and no.

Box office analysts would argue that while some nominated films do see a box office boost, the idea of an "Oscar bounce" may be more myth than reality.

"I think it is a bit of myth," said Paul Dergarabedian, a box office analyst for Rentrak. "Unless you poll every single person coming out of a theater and ask, 'did you see this movie because it got nominated?' You don't really know."

Small releases need to become big releases

To Dergarabedian's point, it's hard to tell if nominated films are seeing bigger box offices because the films now have the prestige of being nominated or because, due to that prestige, film executives have decided to release the features in more theaters.

In order for a film to be a big box office winner it has to get a wide distribution.

Without a nomination, some smaller independent films may never get a wider release, Dergarabedian said.

"If the movie had no Oscar buzz then it wouldn't get more theaters," he said. "Movies still have to be worthy of that additional investment of time and money... studios have to have an idea that these movies are going to be contenders."


How a nomination helps

One of this year's Best Picture nominees, "Birdman," went up 162% the weekend after it was nominated.

This boost looks to have come from the film's nomination, since "Birdman" had its widest release months before it got the honor.

The same could be said for 1999's Best Picture winner, "American Beauty."

"Beauty" had a wide release months prior to being nominated, yet saw a huge 85,985% boost at the box office after it was nominated.

This took the film from a modest $64,292 weekend total before nominations to a whopping $5.5 million the weekend after.

So while the "Oscar bounce" may be a bit of a fable, an Oscar nomination can still breathe new box office life to a film that would be otherwise finished and forgotten.

"It gives films another chance to grab an audience," Dergarabedian added. "An Oscar nomination is a validation, a seal of approval, and a marketing hook as well."


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