Much more so than in past years, the 2012 Best Picture Oscar contenders have collectively put up strong box office numbers in the six weeks since nominations were announced.
From nomination day (January 10th) through the Thursday before Oscars (February 21), the nine Best Picture nominees have grossed over $305 million at the domestic box office. That's a new record ahead of 1997's $260.9 million in the post-nomination, pre-awards period (over half of which came from Titanic).
There are a handful of factors that help explain this phenomenon, many of which simply have to do with scheduling. This year the nominations were announced earlier, giving a full 12 days more in the post-nomination, pre-awards period than there was the last two years. Also, seven of the nine Best Picture nominees opened in November or December, which is noticeably more than the five from 2010/2011 and the four from 2009. Finally, this is only the fourth year in the modern era in which there were more than five Best Picture nominees, which gives 2012 a major advantage.
Two of those late-year titles—Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook—received their biggest push after nominations were announced (Zero Dark had previously only been in 60 theaters). Unsurprisingly, Zero Dark Thirty leads the way in post-nomination grosses with $83.8 million, followed by Silver Linings with $65.1 million.
Additionally, the two strongest 2012 holdovers, Django Unchained and Les Miserables, also managed to receive Best Picture nominations, and therefore earned $45.2 million and $38.3 million, respectively, in the post-nomination period.
While it's likely that the nominations helped a bit, all four of these movies had a lot going for them otherwise: Zero Dark Thirty had its topicality and controversy, Silver Linings had fantastic word-of-mouth, and Django and Les Mis had tons of momentum coming out the holidays.
Further down, though, is where the "Oscar effect" becomes more apparent. Lincoln and Life of Pi—both November releases—grossed $31.4 million and $19.95 million, respectively, during the post-nomination period. Meanwhile, Best Picture frontrunner Argo—which opened three months before nominations—earned $17.3 million and even found its way back in to the Top 10 for a bit.
Even Amour got in on the action: its $3.7 million post-nomination gross might not sound like much, but it's more than any of writer-director Michael Haneke's movies have ever earned at the domestic box office. Finally, Beasts of the Southern Wild returned to theaters and added over $1 million to bring its total to $12.4 million.
The Best Picture nominees have accounted for a huge share of 2013's box office so far. Four of the Top Five so far this year are 2012 Best Picture nominees, and the combined nominee gross of $415 million represents nearly 32 percent of year-to-date box office.
Overall, the Best Picture nominees have now earned $928.3 million, which averages out to $103.1 million per movie. That's better than the 2011 average ($69.8 million), but off from 2010 ($135.7 million) and 2009 ($170.5 million). Lincoln leads the way with $177.1 million, followed by Django Unchained at $157.8 million and Les Miserables at $146 million. This is also the first year ever in which six Best Picture nominees have earned over $100 million.