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Predicting the Real Winners of the Oscars

Friday, 22 Feb 2013 | 1:03 PM ET
Oscar-Nominated Pictures Rack In $2 Billion
CNBC's Julia Boorstin reports the 8 Oscar "best picture" nominated films racked up $2 billion in total box office gross this year.

An Oscar may just be an eight and a half pound statuette, but it has real value for studios' bottom lines.

The telecast, which drew over 39 million viewers last year, acts as free advertising and the awards provide an unparalleled stamp of approval, which helps drive video-on-demand downloads or DVD sales.

And of course there's the intangible element—the Oscar glow—even if a film was a financial disappointment. An Oscar win builds a filmmaker's appeal and helps a studio's reputation.

(Read More: Best Picture Winners With the Biggest 'Oscar Bump')

It also gives winners a competitive advantage in negotiations. That's precisely why studios spend between $10 million and $15 million dollars to promote their Oscar hopefuls ahead of the big event.

How much exactly is an Oscar worth?

A study by BoxOfficeQuant of the Oscars between 1990 and 2009 found that Best Picture winners saw a near $14 million dollar boost at the box office from their win. The Best Director winner saw a nearly $11 million boost on average. Films with a best actress win drew a $2.3 million more in sales and movies with a best actor win saw more than $1 million gain.

So who will win this year?

A company called Brandwatch crunches hundreds of pieces of data from social media, news outlets and blogs to deliver the "Critics Choice" and "Public Choice" based on the volume of positive mentions. It crunches those numbers to deliver its predictions of who will win.

Getty Images

Brandwatch expects "Argo" to win Best Picture, Steven Spielberg to take Best Director for "Lincoln," and the Best Actor win to go to Daniel Day-Lewis for his "Lincoln" role.

Sebastian Hempstead, head of Brandwatch for North America, said the Best Actress race is split between Jessica Chastain, the Critics Choice, Jennifer Lawrence, the Public Choice, and 85-year old Emmanuelle Riva, the potential dark horse candidate for her role in the French movie "Amour." Brandwatch is betting on Lawrence, Hempstead said.

(Read More: 13 Actors Hit With The Oscar Curse)

So which studio will win big? If "Argo" takes the top prize that would be a huge win for Warner Brothers, especially considering that Ben Affleck was snubbed in the Best Director category.

Any "Lincoln" win will benefit Disney and News Corp's Fox, since they're splitting the distribution rights world-wide. If Lawrence wins for her role in the Weinstein Company's "Silver Linings Playbook," that wouldn't just be good for the private studio, it would also be a win for Lionsgate. Lawrence is the star of its hit "Hunger Games" series.

Which film will get the biggest box office boost?

In general, the smaller the film, the more it benefits from Oscar wins. The smallest of the films nominated is "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which was released this summer and has grossed just $12 million.

It also helps if films are still in theaters, or have been released more recently. "Silver Linings Playbook" expanded nation-wide on Christmas day, so it could see a boost should it snag the Best Picture win.

ABC also wins big.

The network is drawing an estimated $85 million in ad revenue with this year's telecast.

(Read More: What an Ad During the Oscars Costs This Year)

This year the nominated movies were much bigger than last year's batch of nominees—the nine Best Picture picks grossed $2 billion worldwide. In 2012, the nine nominees grossed just about $1.25 billion worldwide.

The bigger the films, the bigger the audience that cares about the awards' outcome. That means ABC could see a larger audience this year than last year.

—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin; Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.