Oscar Gold Translates Into Cold, Hard Cash

Billy Crystal returned to the Oscar stage last night to present the 84th Annual Academy Awards, where underdog-turned-frontrunner The Artist stole the show winning five statues, including Best Picture. The black-and-white silent film cost $15 million to make — tuppence compared to some of its competitors in the Best Picture category — but proved itself to be the little film that could, growing from four theaters in late November to over a thousand in less than two months.

The Artist has already paid for itself many times over, grossing upwards of $76 million worldwide in the lead-up to the Oscars, but until its nominations in ten categories last month, most Americans hadn’t even heard of the film, which just goes to show the power of Oscar. Really, awards shows in general tend to help things along — it was just five days after The Artist took home three Golden Globe awards last month that the film was finally given a wide release.

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It’s hard not to compare The Artist to The King’s Speech, which cleaned up at last year’s Academy Awards, winning four Oscars, including the top prize. The King’s Speech also opened in just four theaters in late November, almost exactly one year prior to The Artist, grossing just $355,450 in its first weekend. At that pace, the film didn’t stand to make back its $15 million production budget, but after receiving rave reviews and a pile of Golden Globe nominations, The King’s Speech was released nationwide on Christmas day, and went on to earn $138.8 million in the U.S. alone.

While award shows may not garner the ratings they once did, they still serve as a sort of free publicity for the best, albeit humblest films. The Descendants was another of last night’s winners, nominated in six categories and taking home the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The Descendants had also been given a limited release, only making its way to theaters in the middle of the country after being nominated for a handful of Golden Globes in December.

But while the Oscars have always served to highlight small films that may have otherwise gone unnoticed, the inflated Best Picture category (with nine nominations this year) was full of Hollywood heavyweights that didn’t need the Oscar nod to make big bucks at the box office. Many have attributed the glut of big-budget films nominated in recent years to the Academy’s efforts to broaden the show’s audience. After all, the Academy Awards aren’t very big with the under-30 crowd, or with those Americans with less urbane tastes than the common Indie moviegoer.

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Martin Scorsese’s 3D film Hugo was another of last night’s big winners, but managed to do well enough for itself at the box offices, both in the U.S. and overseas, before it was ever nominated for an award. Midnight in Paris was released in theaters last spring, about as far ahead of awards season as a film can get, and yet the film for which Woody Allen took home the statue for Best Original Screenplay last night has grossed $148 million worldwide. The Help and Bridesmaids were also among the nominees with the biggest box office successes. In fact, the two films came in thirteenth and fourteenth place last year, respectively, grossing roughly $169 million each in the U.S. alone.

The Weinstein Company and Paramount (NYSE:VIA) are no doubt thrilled about The Artist and Hugo taking home an armful of awards each, but the award winners aren’t the only winners of the night. Every nominee benefits from the exposure, and even films that ultimately go home without one of those precious gold men will always be able to count themselves among the lucky few to be recognized at all.

Even though Fox Searchlight’s (NASDAQ:NWSA) The Tree of Life didn’t win any of the three categories in which it was nominated, the production company has made a name for itself in recent years that has proven invaluable. Responsible for nominees and winners like Black Swan, 127 Hours, The Wrestler, Slumdog Millionaire, and this year’s The Descendants, the producer and distributor has built up a lot of bankable clout in recent years, ensuring its films get noticed by audiences whether or not they make it on to the Academy’s exclusive list.

Gold man or not, some of last night’s biggest winners include Universal (NASDAQ:CMCSA), Buena Vista (NYSE:DIS), Focus Features, Sony Classics (NYSE:SNE), Columbia Pictures (NYSE:SNE), and The Weinstein Company, which was behind The Artist, My Week with Marilyn, and The Iron Lady, for which Meryl Streep took home her third Oscar, nearly thirty years after winning her second for Sophie’s Choice in 1983.

Below are the nominees and winners in the 24 motion picture categories:

Best Picture
War Horse
WINNER: The Artist
The Descendants
The Tree of Life
Midnight in Paris
The Help
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Best Actress
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Viola Davis, The Help
WINNER: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Best Actor
Demian Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
WINNER: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Best Director
WINNER: Michel Hazanivicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

Short Film (Animated)
WINNER: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

Documentary Short Subject
The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
God Is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
WINNER: Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Short Film (Live Action)
WINNER: The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantic

Best Original Screenplay
Michel Hazanivicius, The Artist
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids
WINNER: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Asghar Farhadi, A Separation

Best Adapted Screenplay
WINNER: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Descendants
John Logan, Hugo
George Clooney, Beau Willimon and Grant Heslov, The Ides of March
Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin, Moneyball
Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Music (Original Song)
WINNER: “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets, Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio” from Rio, Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett

Music (Original Score)
John Williams, The Adventures of Tintin
WINNER: Ludovic Bource, The Artist
Howard Shore, Hugo
Alberto Iglesias, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
John Williams, War Horse

Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
WINNER: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Visual Effects
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon

Best Animated Feature
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

Documentary Feature
Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
WINNER: Undefeated

Sound Mixing
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon
War Horse

Sound Editing
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon
War Horse

Film Editing
Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Kevin Tent, The Descendants
WINNER: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Thelma Schoonmaker, Hugo
Christopher Tellefsen, Moneyball

Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
WINNER: Octavia Spencer, The Help

Best Foreign Feature
In Darkness
Monsieur Lazhar
WINNER: A Separation

Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle, Albert Nobbs
Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
WINNER: Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland, The Iron Lady

Costume Design
WINNER: The Artist
Jane Eyre

Art Direction
The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Midnight in Paris
War Horse

The Artist
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Tree of Life
War Horse

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Knapp at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com