Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Every year, after I watch the Oscars, I try to guess what the press will say about whoever hosted the show. Generally, I figure if I liked the host and found them funny, the press will deem that host "not Oscar-appropriate." Mainly based on how much that person is like Billy Crystal, the Oscars all-time favorite host. After that, I like to guess how much the press will blame the host for the low ratings of the show.

The question always asked is, "Why aren't people interested in the Oscars? Why don't people watch?" And after they blame it on the length of the show, they always blame it on the host. The funny thing is, the length of the show NEVER has anything to do with the ratings. The show has always (at least since I've been watching) been a marathon. And the ratings go up and down regardless. Because the main reason people watch the Oscar broadcast is to see how their favorite films did.

Which, I think, is why the ratings continue to go in the dumper. Consider this list of the total box office for the last four years of Best Picture nominees:
2007 -- $357 million
2006 -- $296 million
2005 -- $245 million
2004 -- $405 million
per year average -- $326 million

Seems like a pretty decent take, until you compare that to the previous five years:
2003 -- $725 million
2002 -- $662 million
2001 -- $617 million
2000 -- $636 million
1999 -- $647 million
per year average -- $657 million

Obviously, fewer "regular moviegoers" are seeing the nominated films (half as many as saw the Best Pic nominees in 2003). Therefore, there's less general interest in seeing the major awards, thus fewer Oscar viewers.

Most notably, however, this is the fourth year in a row where NONE of the five Best Picture nominees were among the Top Ten grossing films of that year. Previous to that, it had been a streak of fourteen consecutive years where at least one Best Picture nominee was also in the Top Five in box office receipts. "Well, so what?" you might think. "What does box office have to do with how good a movie is?" The answer to that is "Nothing. Not really."

But if you take a look back in Oscar's past, all the way back to 1980, you'll find that there are only three years in which the Best Picture nominees did not include a Top Five grosser: 1989's Driving Miss Daisy was #8, 1980's Coal Miner's Daughter was #7 and 1984's Amadeus was #12.

Additionally, when you go all the way back to 1980, the number one box office movie of the year has been nominated as Best Picture SEVEN times, winning the big prize FIVE times. (The two times it didn't win? 1998's Saving Private Ryan and 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark. Sorry Spielberg!)

It is only in recent years that the Oscars have moved drastically away from nominating films for Best Picture that mix critical darlings with public favorites. And the ratings are (understandably) suffering.

Not that I'm suggesting that the top grossing films should duke it out for the Best Picture Oscar. Were that the case, this year's nominees would have been: Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix. Last year's would have been Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Night at the Museum, Cars, X-Men: The Last Stand and The Da Vinci Code. And the year before that would have been Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire, War of the Worlds and King Kong.

Wow. Good stuff.

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