Get reel: Oscars and the box office bump

Yvonne Teh, Film Editor

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2014, 11:10pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2014, 11:10pm

This year's Oscars have been handed out, but several nominated films continue to await a theatrical release in Hong Kong.

The question now is how well will movies such as Spike Jonze's Her (due to open locally on March 13) and Alexander Payne's Nebraska (March 27) fare at the box office now that the statuettes have new homes? The same question can also be asked about those Oscar-nominated films that remain in cinemas.

Based on what has happened in previous years to films such as Beasts of the Southern Wild (which earned four nods from the academy, but went home empty handed) and The Master (which also did not win in any of the three categories for which it was nominated), few viewers have time for also-rans once the winners have been announced. So it is likely that a film such as Her (whose writer-director, Spike Jonze, came away with the best original screenplay gong) will have a better chance of commercial success than Nebraska (none of whose six nominations translated into success).

It could be argued that even earning a nomination is a significant honour. Still, for J.C. Chandor's All is Lost, one Oscar nomination has not been enough for it to be given a theatrical release here, particularly since its solitary nod was in an unglamorous category (sound editing). Instead, this drama about the ordeal of a lone sailor (Robert Redford) stranded at sea is going straight to DVD in Hong Kong.

Redford's Oscar snub came as a shock to many, including regular South China Morning Post contributor James Mottram who named it in our end-of-year wrap as his favourite film of 2013, describing Redford's performance as outstanding.

Meanwhile, I came away from viewing Lee Daniels' The Butler convinced that Forest Whitaker would receive his first Oscar nomination since his 2007 win for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in Kevin MacDonald's The Last King of Scotland. Still, as the poor box office performance of MacDonald's film shows, it isn't necessarily the case that Oscar gold guarantees a box office boost. Nonetheless, an Oscar win is more likely to help rather than hinder a film's chances of commercial success.