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Oscar Nominations Bring Box Office Bumps for ‘The Shape of Water’ and Others

By  · Published on January 29th, 2018

It’s an honor just to be nominated. And it can be great for business, too.

The first weekend following the announcement of the 2018 Oscar nominations saw improvement for many of the contenders at the box office. While new release Maze Runner: The Death Cure led the chart with a domestic debut about 33% down from the other two installments in its series (but made a ton of money overseas) and was followed by fellow non-nominees Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Hostiles, titles representing all kinds of Academy Awards categories saw bumps in screen count resulting in bumps in domestic grosses over the last few days.

The Shape of the Water experienced the greatest boost for a major title. Guillermo del Toro’s R-rated fairy tale opened back in early December and has done pretty well with three-digit theater counts since expanding to a modest “wide” release around Christmas. But its success was starting to fade before becoming the most-nominated movie of the year last Tuesday. Considered by many to be the frontrunner for Best Picture, The Shape of Water took the opportunity of its receipt of 13 total nods to add another thousand screens, which snagged the movie its best weekend gross yet, almost three times what it made the previous weekend.

Other Best Picture contenders with advances in theater count were Phantom ThreadLady Bird, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Of those, the latter two each hit about 500 more screens and benefited. Lady Bird saw a 61% increase over the previous weekend, though its best days remain a couple months back. The same goes for Three Billboards, which improved by 88%, yet it had already been experiencing a new wave this month thanks to awards buzz, word of mouth, and surely some of the controversial divisive reception. Phantom Thread, however, dropped a bit from the previous weekend, which was its initial wide expansion.

Get Out also made the most of its nomination, returning to theaters on 468 screens and making an extra $170K for the effort. That’s not much — the per-screen average was one of the worst of the weekend — but the movie had been out of cinemas since July and can be seen at home in various formats. Jordan Peele was on Twitter suggesting to fans who only discovered the cultural phenomenon later on home video to give the theatrical experience a shot. Even if the movie doesn’t bring in too much more, it’s already the second-highest-grossing of the contenders, after Dunkirk, which is also supposed to be returning to cinemas ahead of the awards.

Strangely, Sony Pictures Classics didn’t take advantage of its Best Picture nomination for Call Me By Your Name, sticking with its screen count from its modest wide expansion the previous weekend. And its box office take wound up decreasing slightly following the announcement. Darkest Hour also fell along with its slight decrease in locations and The Post dropped in theater count and weekend gross, as well. But The Post has already become the third-highest-grossing of the Best Picture nominees, all while being in theaters the least amount of time among them.

Of the movies showing in the acting categories without Best Picture potential, both I, Tonya and The Florida Project had some box office growth, but the former only advanced about 4% off a 20% increase in screen count and the latter’s 42% jump in gross despite an 11% decrease in locations was just for an additional $55K. Sony (as TriStar) again seemed to drop the ball with All the Money in the World, which fell about 40% due to a 39% decrease in locations, and Roman J. Israel, Esq., which didn’t postpone its exit from theaters in order for Denzel Washington’s nod to work in its favor. Netflix also unsurprisingly had no plan to put Mudbound into cinemas again.

Both Molly’s Game and The Disaster Artist were strong contenders for at least lead performance nods if not also possibilities for Best Picture, but after only earning one nomination, both of them for Best Adapted Screenplay, they each dropped their theater presence by about half and each saw box office decreases around 40-45%. Then there’s Wonder, which had seemed a possibility for the same category but is only recognized for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. That wasn’t special enough for Lionsgate to keep from losing screens and experiencing a drop in its box office take.

The Greatest Showman, which was surely once a Best Picture hopeful for Fox, among other categories, turned up with just a Best Original Song nod for the tune “This Is Me.” Still, even with a screen decrease in the hundreds, the movie only saw a box office drop of 11%, maintaining its incredible staying power as one of the leggiest wide releases of all time.

Meanwhile, neither of the major studio animated feature nominees that are still out benefited, with Ferdinand dropping out of around 500 theaters and falling 44% at the box office and frontrunner Coco dropping out of about 250 theaters and falling 22%. Indie animated nominee The Breadwinner, however, had one of the best bumps of all. Without even adding to its four-screen count, the film had a 52% box office increase — albeit with a figure as low as $4K. The sole Best Documentary Feature nominee in theaters, Faces Places, similarly saw a 44% increase while adding three more screens, yet its weekend gross was still just $14K.

The movie that improved the most following the Oscar nominations announcement, though, is Best Foreign Language Film contender The Insult. The Lebanese drama went from three screens to 10 following its recognition by the Academy, and with those seven additional locations came a box office increase of 162% (!) and one of the best pre-screen averages of the weekend ($6K). We’ll see if fellow foreign contender A Fantastic Woman shows it some competition when it finally opens next weekend.

Here are the weekend box office figures for Oscar nominees from biggest bump to biggest drop (with totals in parentheses):

+162% – The Insult – $61K  ($144K)
+161% – The Shape of Water – $5.7M  ($37.7M)
+88% – Three Billboards… – $3.6M  ($37M)
+61% – Lady Bird – $1.9M  ($41.6M)
+51.9% – The Breadwinner – $4K ($256K)
+44% – Faces Places – $14K  ($723K)
+42% – The Florida Project – $55K  ($5.7M)
+4% – I, Tonya – $3M  ($18.8M)
0% – Get Out – $170K  ($175.9M)
-6% – Call Me By Your Name – $1.3M  ($11.4M)
-11% – The Greatest Showman – $9.5M  ($126.5M)
-11% – Phantom Thread – $2.9M  ($10.6M)
-20% – Wonder – $430K  ($130.6M)
-21% – Darkest Hour – $2.2M  ($45.2M)
-22% – Coco – $1.5M  ($202.8M)
-25% – The Post – $8.9M  ($58.5M)
-36% – Star Wars: The Last Jedi – $4.2M  ($610.7M)
-41% – All the Money in the World – $225K  ($24.5M)
-41% – The Disaster Artist – $104K  ($20.9M)
-44% – Ferdinand – $950K  ($80.5M)
-45% – Molly’s Game – $900K ($25.9M)

And here is the estimated top 10 for the weekend with new releases in bold (and domestic totals in parentheses):

1. Maze Runner: The Death Cure – $23.5M  ($23.5M)
2. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – $16.4M  ($338.1M)
3. Hostiles – $10.2M  ($12.1M)
4. The Greatest Showman – $9.5M  ($126.5M)
5. The Post – $8.9M  ($58.5M)
6. 12 Strong – $8.6M  ($29.8M)
7. Den of Thieves – $8.4M  ($28.5M)
8. The Shape of Water – $5.7M  ($37.7M)
9. Paddington 2 – $5.6M  ($32M)
10. Padmaavat – $4.3M  ($4.8M)

All box office figures are as reported by Box Office Mojo.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.