Lowest-Grossing Best Picture Nominees Since Category Expansion
As was widely expected, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced a slate of Best Picture nominees on Thursday morning that have gone largely unseen by general moviegoers so far.

Ahead of nominations, the eight movies nominated for Best Picture had earned a combined $203.1 million. That's the lowest total since the Academy expanded the field beyond five nominees—and by a large margin, too. The previous low was 2011, when the movies had earned a combined $519 million ahead of nominations.

The highest-grossing Best Picture nominee this year is The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is writer/director Wes Anderson's biggest movie ever with $59.1 million. Budapest opened back in March—a few weeks after last year's Oscar ceremony—and is already available to watch on HBO. Therefore, don't expect any kind of serious theatrical re-release here.

The Imitation Game ranks second with $42 million. The movie has held up remarkably well since its nationwide expansion on Christmas Day, and is currently out-pacing fellow Weinstein Company release The King's Speech. With an added boost from these Oscar nominations, The Imitation Game has a real shot at reaching $100 million.

Birdman and The Theory of Everything rank third and fourth with $26.5 million and $26.1 million, respectively. Each of these movies should get another major push, and could wind up near $40 million total.

In fifth place is Richard Linklater's Boyhood, which has earned $26.1 million and is still playing in a few theaters throughout the country. The movie has been available on DVD for a week or two now, though, and probably won't get a noteworthy theatrical re-release.

Selma ranks sixth with $15.6 million, though it will likely move up the ranks quickly in the coming weeks. The movie just expanded wide on Friday, and should do well over the long Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. Ultimately, look for this to earn at least $40 million total.

Whiplash has so far earned just over $6 million, which is good for seventh place. The movie opened way back in October, but still hasn't received a nationwide release. There's a good chance that changes in the next few weeks, though it would be surprising if it dramatically changed the movie's box office prospects: even with a big push, the indie drama probably won't get above the $10 to $12 million range.

Clint Eastwood's American Sniper is currently the lowest-grossing Best Picture nominee with $3.3 million. Ironically, though, it seems poised to be the highest-grossing nominee when all is said and done. That entire $3.3 million has come from just four theaters—two in New York, one in Los Angeles and one in Dallas—where it's been doing absolutely exceptional business. It now holds three of the top five biggest per-theater averages ever for a live-action movie playing at more than two theaters. It wouldn't be surprising if it set the January opening record when it expands to 3,200 theaters this weekend.

The highest-grossing category, as usual, was Best Visual Effects. The five movies—all major blockbusters—earned $1.22 billion in the U.S. and over $3.6 billion worldwide.

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