This is what has me infuriated. See if you can follow this logic:

  1. Studio A approves Movie 1 because it seems like an Oscar winner
  2. Studio A realizes that because of lack of stars/thematic elements/other reason the movie does not have “mainstream” appeal and so decides to limit distribution since there are other, more reliably bankable movies that need to play on 4,000+ screens
  3. Movie 1 receives limited distribution and even more limited marketing support
  4. Movie 1, because it featured truly innovative acting/directing/whatever becomes the subject of an expensive ad campaign from Studio A as it tries to raise awareness for a potential Oscar nomination
  5. Movie 1 receives nomination, leading to more expensive advertising in an attempt to actually win the award (It should be noted that these ad campaigns probably cost more than the movie’s original marketing budget. It should also be noted that the target audience for these ads are trade writers and other industry professionals, not actual moviegoers, thus doing almost nothing for box office revenue)
  6. Studio A runs consumer-targeted ads touting Movie 1’s nominations. A confused audience wonders why they’ve never heard of these movies before
  7. The audience then notices the movies are playing no where near them because of the limited distribution and decides to go see the “blockbuster” playing at the local googleplex
  8. Studios are perplexed as to why no one watches the Oscar broadcast, not realizing that in order to gain audience interest you have to make the movies available to the audience
  9. No one tunes into the Oscar ceremony broadcast because they’ve never heard of the movies and haven’t been able to see them
  10. Studio A (and B and C and so on) then assumes that the movies they made weren’t popular and so throw more money at big budget comedies, remakes and sequels
  11. Audience goes to see big budget comedies, remakes and sequels because they’re the only ones that get large distribution and major marketing support
  12. Repeat steps 1-11 each year until film industry collapses completely

If studios want to make these prestige project movies successful they need to make them viewable by the audience. If that involves bigger distribution, so be it. If it involves breaking the release window and putting them on DVD day and date with theatrical release, so be it. If anything, the TV network showing the Oscars telecast should be pushing this kind of thinking. ABC is seeing the shows ratings drop year after year because it’s the “good” movies that are nominated for Oscars and not necessarily the “popular” ones.

One thought on “Oscar films that won’t be seen

  1. Innumerable years ago, I did a published study of the impact of Oscar nominations and awards on US box office which showed that the big three awards had a significant positive impact on box-office. This of course excludes the itnernational markets which are bigger than the US market and the ancillary rights (which today represent over 55% of total revenues). The TV ratings don’t really matter – it’s the attendant media coverage and the ultimate revenue spikes that do.

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