B.O. Boosts for the Oscar Nominees?

Amidst of flurry of palpable anticipation and rampant speculation, the nominees for the 81st Annual Academy Awards were announced at the crack of dawn on Thursday — the Oscar race has now begun in earnest.

For the five Best Picture nominees — including Milk, Frost/Nixon, The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonThe Reader and Slumdog Millionaire — the effect on their box-office bottom line will vary. The films that have been in limited release and have earned a relatively modest amount of box-office dollars have the most to gain from their nominations.

At $20 million domestically, Milk, which was not a shoo-in for a Best Picture nod and had pretty much run its box-office course, could capitalize on its nominations and potentially add a significant amount of cash to its till if Focus Features decides to re-expand the film into more markets across the country. Sean Penn‘s nomination for his completely immersive portrayal of the title character is well-deserved and the film is certainly worthy of a expanded run.

Frost/Nixon is another film that could benefit from the major nominations it received and with its gross at a mere $9 million, this is another film that fully deserves an expanded run so that audiences can experience the Frank Langella’s incredible performance.

Kate Winslet‘s performance in The Reader was boosted from a supporting actress win at the Golden Globes to a Best Actress nomination. Obviously, the actors who voted in this category felt Ms. Winslet’s performance was to be properly recognized as more than a supporting performance. This, along with its other major nominations, puts the film — which has earned just $9 million domestically to date — in a great position to leverage some serious Oscar coinage.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the most commercially successful film of the Best Picture nominees by an Oscar mile, with $104 million domestically — and it still has the opportunity to add to its already impressive total. The film still has a long way to go to earn back its production and marketing costs, but at nearly three hours, its box-office performance has been grossly underappreciated. With an amazing 13 nominations Benjamin Button has a much stronger shot at adding significantly to its box-office both in North America and around the world.

Not to mention the traction and excitement created by the simultaneous nominations of both Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, which will hopefully boost ratings for the Oscar telecast and draw a younger audience to the show that has seen its ratings dwindle in the past few years.

Finally, the Slumdog that is no longer an underdog, Slumdog Millionaire received a whopping 10 nominations and may very well parlay these nominations, and the accompanying publicity, into a doubling of its current domestic gross that now stands at $45 million. Amazingly, this little movie that could may wind up being a $100 million box-office hit and beyond.

Ultimately, each of the five Best Picture nominees stand to benefit from the “Oscar Effect” or Oscar box-office bump. Last year’s winner, No Country for Old Men, saw a 20.7 percent jump in box office dollars after it was nominated, bringing its grand total to $64.2 million.

Considering that the five current nominees are all still playing in theatres, and that their total combined box-office stands at less than $200 million, there is still a lot of money waiting to be spent on these Oscar hopefuls.

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