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Oscars® Night: Turning Nominations Into Box Office

We know that awards season can have an interesting influence on moviegoing behaviour. It can expand audiences for nominated movies, which can then be turned into box office. Just take Shape of Water, which after being in wide release for four weeks (limited release for eight weeks), achieved 43% of its box office post its Oscar® nomination.

In addition, the past years have seen the Oscars® audience evolve, 2019 saw one of the youngest and most diverse Best Picture audiences, and many of the 2020 film nominations from the same category were not ones to fit into your ‘typical’ Oscars® box.

So how can those seeking to get the nominated movies back on their screens in the lead-up to the Oscars® achieve the greatest box office return in the next two weeks until the big night? To help, we highlight insights on a few of this year's Oscar®-nominated titles from Movio’s proprietary Research console to help studios and exhibitors entice the most moviegoers back into cinema to watch Oscar®-nominated titles in the lead-up!

To Begin

The starting point for our analysis began with those moviegoers who had seen Oscar® nominated titles and the overlap of audiences between each title. Of the six major (non-streamer original) movies nominated for Best Picture:

  • 13% of these moviegoers saw 2 of 6 movies
  • 5% saw 3 of 6 movies
  • 2% saw 4 of 6 movies
  • 1% saw 5 or 6 movies
  • 0.5% saw all 6 movies

Of the 2022 Best Picture nominees we analysed, Licorice Pizza is the one with the most audience overlap with other non-streaming nominees in its list of comp titles, it had Nightmare Alley and Belfast. In comparison, Dune, West Side Story and King Richard counted no other 2022 Best Picture nominees in their lists of comp titles. This suggests that audiences to date have not been driven by the prestige of nominations, nor a desire to see the nominees on the big screen prior to the Awards. In other words, there is significant opportunity to convert fans of upscale Oscar®-bait prior to awards night. The trick is to promote the theatrical experience of watching these movies the way their directors intended and not on the couch at home

Jump to titles: Nightmare Alley, West Side Story, King Richard, Belfast, Dune

Licorice Pizza

Comp Titles: 
The French Dispatch, Nightmare Alley, Belfast, House of Gucci, Lady Bird, Last Night In Soho

The Licorice Pizza audience is over-indexing with more mature moviegoers, with 53% of the total audience age 55+, and skewing male (55%). Tuesday sessions have also made up 26% of total admissions (15% is all movies benchmark) to date. 10% of moviegoers who saw Licorice Pizza in theatres were returning for the first time since the re-opening post-pandemic in September 2020.

What the Comp titles tell us: 
The comp titles make it look like a more traditional Oscars® audience, with other current nominated titles as similar matches for the audience. Make sure you’re targeting moviegoers that have been to see two or three other nominated titles this year. These moviegoers have previously returned to cinemas and may have missed this title during its holiday release window. 

Similarly, to Paul Thomas Anderson’s last title, Phantom Thread, fans of his storytelling are high-brow moviegoers who typically watch other nominated movies. In fact, 71% of the audience who has seen Licorice Pizza has returned to theatres at least five times so identifying the more Infrequent and Occasional moviegoers who have seen other awards fare, but not Licorice Pizza will help you target the right people to see this movie. 

Additional targeting: 
Post nominations we noticed an increase in ticket sales for females, especially those over the age of 35 and occasional moviegoers (people who see between two and five movies in a six-month period) so they are more selective with their movie choice in cinemas. Consider targeting moviegoers who have a high likelihood of seeing Licorice Pizza based on their current viewing behavior, but have not seen it yet. Licorice Pizza is the only Best Picture nominated title that is not available to watch free of charge on a streaming platform so the theatrical experience sets this title apart for moviegoers who are considering what to see in theatres before the awards ceremony.

Licorice Pizza Total Admits Graph

On the audience graph above you can see Day 44, which was February 7th, the day before nominations came out. Then from there the spike on Day 48-49 which was the Friday/Saturday, (the Sunday was Superbowl), and Day 52 which was the next Tuesday post the nominations

Nightmare Alley 

Comp Titles: 
Licorice Pizza, Last Night in Soho, House of Gucci, The French Dispatch, The King’s Man, Death on the Nile

Nightmare Alley’s audience is made up of more Frequent moviegoers, and similarly to Licorice Pizza, 50% of the audience was 55+ years, also skewing male (58%). Tuesday is also one of the more popular days along with 12 pm-6 pm session times. 8% of the Nightmare Alley audience were returning for the first time since the pandemic shutdown. 

What the Comp titles tell us: 
Fans of this movie are interested in awards season contenders, but also the mysterious aspects of this plotline - seen also in Last Night in Soho, House of Gucci, Death on the Nile, and The Last Duel. Movio’s Similarity Algorithm identifies Licorice Pizza as the most similar movie based on audience behavior, but so far only 16.7% of the Licorice Pizza audience has seen Nightmare Alley and 15.5% of the Nightmare Alley audience has seen Licorice Pizza so there is a lot of potential for more moviegoers to see either movie while they are still in theatres leading up to the Academy Awards® ceremony.

Additional targeting:
Nightmare Alley has similar themes to Del Toro’s last Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water (Best Picture winner in 2018). The Shape of Water was able to bring in a bit more of the younger male audience than we’ve seen so far for Nightmare Alley. Since nominations have come out we’ve noticed a surge in younger male moviegoers, make sure they aren’t excluded in any marketing communications!

Nightmare Alley Gender and Age Graph

The above graph shows the increase in male moviegoers <35 years, Week 8 was the week nominations were released

West Side Story

Comp Titles: 
Little Women, La La Land, In the Heights, Green Book, A Star is Born, The Post

To date, West Side Story has attracted a more infrequent audience, made up of primarily two ticket purchasers (54% of total admissions). 54% of the audience was 55+ years of age, this time skewing more female (56%). 18% of the West Side Story audience was returning to cinema for the first time since theatres reopened in 2020.

What the Comp titles tell us: 
The remake of the 1961 classic is bringing in mostly older female moviegoers who were likely fans of the original movie. Over 18% of the West Side Story audience was returning to theatres for the first time since the pandemic shutdown in 2020, which is why the comp titles are mostly pre-2020 released movies. The comps and performance of this movie so far also tell us West Side Story was unable to bring in younger moviegoers. 

Additional targeting:
Since nominations came out, we have seen an increase in female moviegoers under 35 and older male moviegoers - two demos that may have skipped this title originally in favor of other movies released in December, but are now paying attention because of the Oscars® buzz. Targeting recently returned moviegoers who fall into these age categories could tap into an audience who has yet to see West Side Story

King Richard

Comp Titles: 
Respect, A Journal For Jordan, House of Gucci, American Underdog, Just Mercy, Harriet

The movie starring Will Smith and profiling famous tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams brought in a more diverse audience at 19.4% Black, the average movie in the Movio database bringing in 12.1% Black moviegoers. Its audience also skewed female (53%), with 62% of the total audience aged 45+ and 12% were returning to theatres for the first time since theatres reopened in 2020. 

What the Comp titles tell us: 
The comp titles tell us the Williams’ family biopic brought in fans of other notable biographical stories - and unlike the majority of the other nominated titles - not necessarily fans of Oscar®-nominated fare.

Additional targeting: 
For the opening weekend of the title, 29% of moviegoers were aged 12-34 and that age group dropped down to 24% after week one of the movie's release. In both instances, this is about a 10% difference from the average movie for that age group. Since nominations came out, we’ve seen the King Richard audience has increased in the Midwest region and has continued to climb there in Suburban markets for younger female moviegoers. We recommend targeting a younger female audience who have a propensity to see movies about female empowerment


Comp Titles: 
Licorice Pizza, The French Dispatch, Green Book, The Favourite, Lady Bird

Out of all the Oscar®-nominated movies this year, Belfast attracted the oldest audience, with 50% of moviegoers aged 65+. The audience was mostly two ticket purchasers and Infrequent, with female moviegoers edging out males, 52% to 48% and, 13% returning to theatres for the first time since the pandemic shutdown.

What the Comp titles tell us: 
The comp titles tell us that this audience is high-brow, and enjoys your typical Oscar®-nominated fare, but has been more reluctant to return with most similar titles dating back to 2017 - 2018. 

Additional targeting:
While older female moviegoers have stayed the most consistent audience for Belfast, after nominations were announced we saw an increase in older male moviegoers. While keeping the appeal of the movie to an older demo in mind, I would use movies like Ford v Ferrari,1917, and Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood to target the older, predominantly male audience that is interested in historical awards-nominated movies


Comp Titles: 
Eternals, Blade Runner 2049, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, No Time to Die, Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Dune is the most commercially successful movie that has been nominated for Best Picture this year and the most unique in terms of the audience who watched it in theatres. Unlike the other titles we’ve profiled, Dune appealed to audiences of all ages and skewed heavily male at 65%. The audience was mostly Infrequent at 43% and it shows in the 19% percent of moviegoers who were back for their first visit post the pandemic shutdown.

Dune Demographic Graph

The above graph shows the age and gender breakdown of the Dune audience (in blue) compared to the other Best Picture nominees' demo breakdown (in black).

What the Comp titles tell us: 
The comp titles tell us that traditional superhero & sci-fi epics’ fans came out to see this movie, which is a younger male audience. Fans of the novel, first published in 1965, and the original movie (released in 1984) helped spread the interest to the older audience as well. 

Additional targeting:
We saw an immediate spike in female moviegoer attendance when nominations were announced, but since then the majority of the audience still coming to theaters to see Dune is younger males aged 12-17. The visual effects of this movie make an easy argument for watching it on a big screen, in an interview last year Director Dennis Villeneuve said, “Frankly, to watch ‘Dune’ on a television, the best way I can compare it is to drive a speedboat in your bathtub. For me, it’s ridiculous. It’s a movie that’s made as a tribute for the big-screen experience.” In communications to moviegoers, we recommend calling out members' last chance to watch this movie on the biggest screen possible, as it should be seen. Given Dune first released on October 22nd 2021, targeting young “fanboys” who may have already seen the movie, but would come back again for a repeat viewing in addition to the traditional Oscars® audience with this last chance reminder will be your best bet to bring moviegoers back to theaters to see Dune

It’s your turn 

So as you can see, audiences evolve over a movie’s time in (and out) of cinema, and it can evolve more when we add award nominations and the media hype that surrounds it. This is why it’s important to keep an eye on audience and attendance fluctuations for titles to make sure you’re able to add additional layers and segmentations to your marketing communications. Targeting the right audience will most certainly bring you more box office, so why don’t you set up a campaign using some of the targeting tips from above and see what happens?

For more information about our Research product or for additional insights please contact us here, or for weekly movie insights or our discussion about these insights listen to our Behind The Screens Podcast.

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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