Analyzing the Oscars Bump

How social media buzz affects a film’s post-nomination revenue

The Academy may select the Oscars nominees and winners, but that’s only a small part of what make the Oscars, and awards shows in general, so important. The real power lies in how the Oscars generate conversation around the year’s top movies and influence the future box office performance of the films involved.
Analyzing the social conversation around the Oscars can shed light on the closed-door process of nominating films and provide insight into the impact of awards and nominations on box office revenue.
And there’s no better place to start than with this year’s crop.

The 2017 race

In a complicated year, which has started off with a distinctly dystopian and political tone, an idealistic, airy musical drama called La La Land has dominated the Oscars discussion. La La Land took awards season by storm, sweeping the Golden Globes by winning all seven of its nominated categories, including Best Picture Comedy/Musical. While many critics heralded La La Land as the frontrunner for the Oscars, others said we should look to grittier films like Manchester by the Sea or Moonlight.

But regardless of which film takes the top spot, one thing is clear: the future of these films is even more ambiguous. Some will benefit from the “Oscars bump” and ride the increased buzz into post-awards success, while others will fade into obscurity.

What can social and box office trends in previous best picture races tell us about the films in this year’s and future Oscars races?

Let’s look at the last six Best Picture races to see how the nominations have influenced social conversation and box office haul.

Social buzz for best picture nominees

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* Best Picture Winner

Pre-Nomination Time Period: January – December in the year of the film’s release

Post-Nomination Time Period: January – December in the year after the film’s release, during the year of the Oscars ceremony

Looking at best picture nominees from 2010-2015, we can see that Oscar nominations have a big impact on social buzz and vice-versa. Eighty-three percent of Oscar nominees received more than 50 percent of their total social conversation volume after their nomination. An Oscar nod can launch an obscure film into the spotlight, but most Oscar nominees are not huge blockbusters. Films that did not benefit as much from the nomination share some characteristics — heavily marketed (The Grand Budapest Hotel), megahits (Inception, Gravity, Mad Max), or starring established actors (The Tree of Life, Lincoln).

But social buzz is one thing, and cold hard cash is another. Which brings us to our next question.

Does social buzz help elevate a film’s box office revenue post-nomination?

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Box office revenue for best picture nominees

When we analyzed the box office revenue of Oscar-nominated films, we found some pretty compelling correlations.

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* Best Picture Winner

Pre-Nomination Time Period: January – December in the year of the film’s release

Post-Nomination Time Period: January – December in the year after the film’s release, during the year of the Oscars ceremony

Many of the films that enjoy the highest post-nomination box office revenue also enjoy the highest post-nomination social buzz. Seventy-five percent of films in the top four for post-nomination buzz are also in the top four for post-nomination revenue.

Indeed, a film does not need to be an Oscar winner to clean up at the box office; a nomination alone can drive audience interest. When it comes down to the two hotly contested films for the Oscars win, audience interests, indicated by social buzz, is a better (but not foolproof) indicator for the film that will enjoy more box office revenue.

Conclusion

When all is said and done, it is clear that awards shows in general, and the Oscars in particular, have a significant impact on a film’s legacy. Nominated films (not just winners) enjoy a sizable bump in social conversation, which correlates strongly with post-awards box office revenue.

So when film studios and promoters wonder what an Oscar is really worth, the answer is quite a bit, especially in terms of its impact on keeping the film in the social conversation even after it leaves theaters.

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