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Exploring the Tastes of an Oscars® Audience

Period dramas, World War epics, and character studies might come to mind when asked to describe a “typical” Academy Awards® Best Picture nominee. And while the 2020 Best Picture nominations certainly ticked all those boxes (Little Women and 1917, for example), several of this year’s nominees seemed not to fit cleanly into your “typical” Oscars® box.

Appearance aside, we wanted to see how similar this year’s nominees are to one another—in terms of audience tastes and preferences, and also to explore where else the tastes of those Oscars® audience moviegoers might lie. 

To do this, we analyzed each 2020 Best Picture Oscar®-nominated title using Movio’s Similarity Algorithm, which scores movie similarity based on theatrical audience overlap. The more moviegoers who saw both of any two titles (relative to what would be expected by random chance), the more similar those movies are considered to be. We first compared the similarity of the 2020 Best Picture nominees purely to other 2020 Best Picture nominees. We then opened it up to see which films, nominated or not, had the highest theatrical audience overlap with the 2020 Best Picture contenders.

(Note: Both The Irishman and A Marriage Story had only a very limited theatrical release, generating insufficient audience data to be included in this comparison. We have thus excluded these titles from our analysis.)

Nominated Titles: Most and Least Similar

Of the seven nominated titles we analyzed, four had their highest audience overlap with Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, making it most similar to 4 of 6 (excluding itself from the total 7). However, moviegoing behavioral characteristics (such as recency and frequency) may have been a factor seeing as Once Upon a Time... was released much earlier in the year than several of the others, giving it an advantage over titles released within a narrower (or same) timeframe as one another.

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Comparing the audience of Little Women to the audiences of the other six nominated titles, the Saoirse Ronan-led ensemble shared its highest audience overlap with the Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio starrer Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. Interestingly, by contrast, the audience for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was least similar to that of Little Women when compared to the other six nominees analyzed.

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In fact, Little Women had the lowest average similarity score to all other 2020 nominated titles. Despite being in the company of a Korean language dark comedy thriller (Parasite), a comic book anti-hero origin story (Joker), and a comedic drama about a Nazi Youth with a make-believe friend (JoJo Rabbit), Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott classic was actually the oddball of this year’s Best Picture bunch.

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Beyond the 2020 Nominees

Analyzing the audience overlap of nominated titles and all titles (nominated or not) highlights just how wide-ranging moviegoing tastes can be. Moviegoers who purchased tickets to this year’s Best Picture nominees, yes, also flocked to nominated titles from previous years (such as The Favourite, Dunkirk, and La La Land). But this year’s moviegoing Oscars® audiences attended plenty of “pop-ier” fare with Best Picture contenders seeing high audience overlap with the likes of It: Chapter Two, Deadpool 2, and Book Club.

This Year’s Oscars® Audience

Looking at the average audience across all seven nominated titles, we find it is noticeably more male than the average U.S. moviegoing audience (averaging 58% male for the seven nominees vs. 52% male for an average audience). The gender gap becomes even starker when we remove Little Women from the equation and look at the average audience of the remaining six titles, which stands at over 61% male.

Best Picture Predictions?

While audience data likely won’t indicate how Academy members are inclined to vote on the 2020 lineup, it will be useful in predicting how, or rather, to whom to promote the nominated titles. With many of these movies still in theaters, and others returning for a pre-Oscars®  push, marketers would do well to consider moviegoers’ past attendance, for instance, appealing to previous attendees of Ford v Ferrari to drive ticket sales to 1917. On the surface, these films may not seem similar or have obvious appeal to the same audiences, but Movio’s title-level ticket purchase data shows otherwise.

OSCAR®, OSCARS®, ACADEMY AWARDS®, ACADEMY AWARD®, A.M.P.A.S.® AND OSCAR NIGHT® are registered trademarks, and the OSCAR statuette is a registered trademark and copyrighted property, of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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