Oscar Box Office: A Look at the 2015 Best Picture Nominees

by Brad Brevet

January 15, 2016

The 2015 Oscar nominations have been announced with The Revenant leading the way with 12 nominations followed by Mad Max: Fury Road with ten. After crunching some numbers we've taken a look at how this year's crop of Best Picture nominees stacks up to prior, pre-nomination box office totals. Have a look at what we found after comparing this year's eight Best Picture nominees to 190 previous Best Picture contenders, going back 33 years to 1982.

NOTE: Before reading on, please be aware this article is specifically comparing pre-nomination grosses (not adjusted for inflation) unless otherwise noted.

To begin, Room is the sixth lowest grossing Best Picture nominee (pre-nominations) in the last 33 years with $5.1 million. The five lower grossing films are American Sniper ($3.3M), Letters from Iwo Jima ($2.5M), My Left Foot ($2.1M), The Dresser ($562k) and Amour ($371k). In fact, Room will likely end up as one of the top ten lowest grossing Best Picture nominees over the last 33 years. It will need to gross more than Whiplash's $13.09 million to skirt such a distinction.

At the top of the chart, The Martian ($226.6M) is the 14th highest grossing Best Picture nominee (pre-nominations) since 1982 and Mad Max: Fury Road ($153.6M) just missed the top twenty, edged out by The Help (2011) by $15.9 million.

The average pre-nomination gross for the eight Best Picture nominees is $75.8 million, the 12th highest average since 1982 and highest pre-nomination average since 2010, when the Academy went to their new nomination process where anywhere from 5-10 films could get a Best Picture nomination.

The overall pre-nomination total for the eight Best Picture nominees is $606.6 million, the sixth highest in the past 33 years. Interestingly enough, 2003 places fourth with $637.8 million in total pre-nomination grosses, serving as the only year in the top five from the days when there were only five Best Picture nominees. That year The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was already at $338.3 million once the nominations were announced, and it went on to win Best Picture.

2015's eight Best Picture nominees were in the second highest average number of theaters per film at 2,323, second only to 2003 where the average theater count per nominee was 2,368. However, the average gross per theater ranks 26th out of the 33 years evaluated with an average of $32,636 per theater.

The highest theater average in the last 33 years belongs to 1982 with a whopping $99,263 from 999 theaters. That year E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial had already grossed a massive $329 million prior to Oscar nominations being announced. In fact, E.T.'s pre-nomination gross is the fifth highest heading into the Oscar nominations in the past 33 years.

The average pre-nomination gross for the eventual Best Picture winner since 1982 is $84.7 million, that number bumps up to $134.3 million once you take into account the overall gross for the last 32 Best Picture winners. More recently, the average pre-nomination gross for the eventual Best Picture winner over the past ten years is $52.7 million with the overall cumulative average for the winner growing to $83.4 million. That said, the recent $52.7M average almost lines up exactly with The Revenant's $54.1 million, pre-nomination gross.... Is it a sign?

Here's an ordered list of the last 33 Best Picture Oscar winners based on their pre-nomination grosses followed by a look at 2015's Best Picture nominees:

Last 33 Best Picture Oscar Winners Pre-Nomination Grosses:

  • Titanic (1997) - $338,710,764
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) - $338,345,008
  • Forrest Gump (1994) - $300,565,286
  • Gladiator (2000) - $186,610,052
  • The Silence of the Lambs (1991) - $130,742,922
  • The Departed (2006) - $121,756,022
  • A Beautiful Mind (2001) - $113,704,771
  • Argo (2012) - $110,313,486
  • Dances with Wolves (1990) - $104,349,829
  • Rain Man (1988) - $96,983,853
  • Unforgiven (1992) - $75,285,393
  • Terms of Endearment (1983) - $72,907,464
  • Braveheart (1995) - $67,047,523
  • Chicago (2002) - $64,568,153
  • The King's Speech (2010) - $57,949,346
  • Out of Africa (1985) - $55,581,964
  • Crash (2005) - $53,404,817
  • No Country for Old Men (2007) - $48,899,543
  • Slumdog Millionaire (2008) - $44,711,799
  • The English Patient (1996) - $42,319,574
  • Platoon (1986) - $39,297,361
  • 12 Years a Slave (2013) - $39,047,653
  • Shakespeare in Love (1998) - $36,549,292
  • Driving Miss Daisy (1989) - $33,601,409
  • Schindler's List (1993) - $29,649,653
  • Birdman (2014) - $26,601,455
  • Amadeus (1984) - $25,718,407
  • The Hurt Locker (2009) - $12,671,105
  • The Artist (2011) - $12,365,758
  • The Last Emperor (1987) - $11,912,886
  • Gandhi (1982) - $11,861,444
  • Million Dollar Baby (2004) - $8,499,006

2015 Best Picture Oscar Nominees Pre-Nomination Grosses:

  • The Martian - $226,621,697
  • Mad Max: Fury Road - $153,636,354
  • Bridge of Spies - $70,780,769
  • The Revenant - $54,146,167
  • The Big Short - $44,613,566
  • Spotlight - $28,845,407
  • Brooklyn - $22,792,955
  • Room - $5,166,724

The highest overall gross for a Best Picture winner is, of course, Titanic with $600.7 million. Second highest is Return of the King, which, coincidentally was neck-and-neck with Titanic in terms of pre-nomination gross as both films had made just over $338 million when nominations were announced in their respective years. Of course, Titanic's overall gross dwarfs that of Return of the King by a whopping $223.7 million. Where will this year's winner end up in the end?

For a complete look at this year's crop of Oscar nominees and their box office performance so far click here and keep an eye on those pages as they will be updating as soon as this afternoon with post-nomination grosses.

The 88th Annual Academy Awards for 2015 will be held on February 28, 2016.

Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo and author Brad Brevet at @bradbrevet.

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