Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Slumdog Beats Button Again

Useless trivia alert
At some showing in some multiplex in some mall somewhere round about right now Slumdog Millionaire will beat Benjamin Button's box office tally, which makes it the top grossing Best Picture nominee from 2008 (as well as the winner). This will put Slumdog at #19 for biggest box office of 2008, just behind Hathaway and Carrel's Get Smart antics and Jolie and McAvoy's Wanted moves, and #2 for most successful drama behind Gran Torino. The other eighteen films, as per usual, are special effects driven, franchise entries, animated or comedic... the four things the public likes best. If you adjust for profitability Slumdog is much higher up, given a production budget that's miniscule in comparison to most top 20 finishers (it's but a 10th the size of Button's). Though perhaps they burned the extra profits away on that relentless Oscar campaign.

Statistically the Best Picture winner is usually the second highest grosser in its pack of nominees when all the pennies are counted. If it's not the runner up, it's #1. Only twice in the past 25 years has this pattern not held: The Last Emperor was very nearly the least successful of the '87 nominees and '99's American Beauty finished behind both the blockbuster The Sixth Sense and the Tom Hanks hit The Green Mile.

Meanwhile The Reader continues to disprove the notion that only a Best Picture win means anything at the box office. Winslet's win and its misleading ad campaign (they're also calling it a "thriller". Oy) seem to be powering The Reader's take. It will likely move past Milk (now on DVD) soon to become the third most successful BP nominee. Strangely, Slumdog seems to be cutting its box office off at the knees. It's still playing strong in the top ten nationwide and yet they're releasing it to DVD in three weeks. I guess everyone has finally accepted the sad notion that theatrical is only a commercial for DVD. Commercials get fast forwarded. The Reader comes to DVD in April. Benjamin Button or maybe Frost/Nixon (the least popular nominee) will hold out the longest before making the leap for home viewing.

12 comments:

Peter said...

Merits aside, it's totally shocking that the Ron Howard movie is going to be the lowest grossing one. How The Reader is generating any business at all is beyond me.

Shawn said...

"Though perhaps they burned the extra profits away on that relentless Oscar campaign."

What relentless Oscar campaign are you talking about? It had the least amount of FYC ads of the Best Pic nominees (and even non-Best Pic films). The commercials were there, but there wasn't an onslaught of them.

In fact they had less of a campaign and more of a "word-of-mouth" and "awards behemoth" track. Again, relatively to the other films this year.

I actually found it weird since Fox Searchlight is usually really good at campaigning for its Best Pic nominees namely Juno and LMS. But maybe they chose decidedly to not campaign to give the film an aura of underdogness.

Well whatever they did, it worked.

NATHANIEL R said...

Shawn, this is the first I've ever heard from anyone/anywhere of a suggestion that Fox Searchlight didn't campaign the hell out of that film. I would be surprised if they didn't spend millions. From the sounds of David Poland's reportage at least (he seems to talk about campaign money the most... or maybe that's just my perception) millions upon millions is a pretty regular expenditure.

I don't get ad sales numbers for Variety but there's other ways to campaign your film besides those pretty FYC pictures.

Peter I know, right? Perhaps Erik was right in the Oscar Symposium, The day you can't sell a Ron Howard picture...

billybil said...

I'm glad. I'd rather see Slumdog do better at the box office than B. Button. I get so frustrated with movies that promise me an emotional experience and then don't deliver. I do wish B. Button had been the movie it looked like it was going to be.

Adam M. said...

Let's talk some serious numbers here...

"Ben Button" has grossed about $316 million worldwide. According to the LA Times, "Button" cost $150 mil to make, $135 mil to market and distribute worldwide, and $10 mil to campaign for Oscars. So that's $295 mil gone, leaving "Button" with a paltry $21 mil profit at most.

Now let's look at "Slumdog." It has grossed about $222 million worldwide. Take out the $15 mil production budget and estimated $35 mil in marketing/distribution costs and you're left with an extremely impressive $172 mil.

So "Button" has made $21 mil, while "Slumdog" has made $172 mil, or 720% more than "Button." It's really no contest.

RobUK said...

I'm not going to poke more fun at Frost/Nixon, because there's plenty of that going on in these parts, and I still rank it as the second best of the nominees (1 Milk, 2 Frost, 3 Reader, 4 Slumdog, 50 Button)... but what I am going to do a double take on is that shocking reminder that - yes - The Green Mile really DID get a Best Picture nomination for 1999!

Arguably the most exciting, inventive and impressive year of the last twenty years... and The Green Mile got a Best Picture nomination!

Oy.

Arkaan said...

Yes. 1999 had All About My Mother, Topsy-Turvy, Being John Malkovich, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Matrix, Toy Story 2, Princess Mononoke, Iron Giant, Election, The Straight Story, Three Kings, Cabaret Balkan, Boys Don't Cry, Magnolia, Eyes Wide Shut, Run Lola Run, The Limey, Fight Club, South Park, Go, The Blair Witch Club and After Life, and they nominated The Green Mile.

Seriously. I don't love/like ALL the films I mentioned, but seriously. Consider that.

NATHANIEL R said...

arkaan... the way I always explain that (cuz it's horrifying) is to think that there were just too many great films appealing to the same constituency in the academy. they all split into the support and you end up with the median

it's like if there had been 7 or 8 more films as good / challenging / not typically Oscary as No Country & There Will Be Blood in 2007, maybe they both wouldn't have been nominated.

Anonymous said...

Wow I am just happy Ben Button made a profit. Before the released blogs and the LA Times were whining that this movie would never make back it's budget. Now the whining seems to be that it did not make enough of a profit.

adam k. said...

I am quite annoyed that The Reader looks to be pulling ahead of Milk. Milk won more oscars!!! And it's actually enjoyable to watch. Where's its extra money?

And I never thought Slumdog would make quite this much money (overtaking Button), but I can't say I'm surprised at this point. And doesn't it stand to make a lot more internationally? If Button made so much? It is a very international film.

NATHANIEL R said...

adam k -- milk is out on DVD. hence the end to theatrical revenue.

Kamikaze Camel said...

For whatever reason Milk just didn't seem to catch on. Of course, at least it's not in a depressing place like Frost/Nixon.