So, the Oscars are about Hollywood recognizing its own, honoring the quality work of the past year. But in recent years, it seems, the refrain has grown louder every year: The Oscars are irrelevant to audiences because the nominated movies — that is, the supposed “best” movies — are hardly ever the most popular movies. (For a recent example, see: “Are Oscars out of touch with modern audiences?” at Times Lives.) The addition of extra Best Picture nominees was an attempt on the part of the Academy to make room for more populist films… but this year, with nine nominees in that category, only one — The Help — could be described as a blockbuster.
The divide between the films that Hollywood produces to be popular and the films that Hollywood recognizes as quality seems to be worsening. Patrick Goldstein at The Big Picture:
This year’s box office is booming, except, gulp, for Oscar movies. The 2012 grosses have been surprisingly strong, up nearly 18% year to date compared with 2011. But if you think any of that is thanks to people rushing out to see the best picture contenders ahead of Sunday’s Academy Awards show, think again.
Just look at this past weekend’s box office, which featured five films taking in more than $20 million in U.S. ticket sales over the four-day Presidents Day period. None were Oscar films. In fact, the best performer of this year’s nine best picture nominees, the George Clooney-starring “The Descendants,” finished in 11th place, with an estimated $3.5-million take.
In years past, Hollywood insiders have cited a post-nomination “Oscar bounce” at the box office as justification for the millions of dollars it spends on Oscar ads. And Hollywood is still in full-on Oscar campaign mode…. But when you look at the cold hard numbers, the bounce looks more and more like myth than reality…. Studio marketers are rarely in sync on many issues, but they are in unanimous agreement that they are getting less and less bang for their Oscar buck with each passing year.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the sense that popular movies are getting worse and worse each year is also on the rise. (Examples: “Science Proves That Movies Are Getting Worse” at Cinematical, “LA Times Chart Proves That Movies Are Getting Worse and Worse” at Mother Jones, “Proof The Movies Are Getting Worse” at Gizmodo, and the brilliant must-read “The Day the Movies Died” by Mark Harris in GQ early last year.)
So there’s an enormous disconnect between the films that Hollwood insiders believe are “really really good” and the films that Hollywood insiders made for popular consumption and push for popular consumption. (It’s hard to compare the box office takings for The Artist, say, with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 when the latter at its widest release was playing on more than four times as many screens in North America than the former, and when the films were marketed very differently.)
Are the Oscars an ever clearer indication that Hollywood knows it makes crap? Can we take any hope from the possibility that Hollywood might finally wake up and recognize its schizophrenia and start making quality popular movies again?
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