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Academy Awards: The Oscar Nomination Effect

Oscar Awards
AP
Oscar Awards

The Oscar nominations are out, and some front runners have finally emerged in what’s been a muddled and inconclusive race so far.

In the lead: Martin Scorcese’s “Hugo,” from Paramount , which snagged 11 nominations including ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Director,’ and The Artist, from The Weinstein Company, with 10 nominations, including those two plus best actor and actress. Another frontrunner: The Descendants, Fox’s drama starring George Clooney, with 5 nominations, including Best Picture.

Just earning an Oscar nom can mean big bucks for studios. Best picture nominees that did not win the award earned on average $17.7 million once they were nominated before the awards show, and then another $4 million after the show, according to IBISWorld. And those numbers are actually much bigger, because IBISWorld averages in films that earn $0 at the box office after nominations because they’re no longer in theaters. But that box office boost isn’t free- studios often invest millions in marketing to Academy members to win votes for nominations and awards.

And of course a box office win yields a bigger boost—an average of $27.5 million between nominations and the awards show, and another $15.4 million after winning an Oscar. And if you’re betting in an office pool take note—that means box office performance between the nominations and awards can be used to predict results at the big show.

‘Hugo’ Gets much-needed Attention

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo has earned more nominations than any other film, appealing to Academy members with its fanciful tale about the magic of cinema. But financially it has been a massive disappointment—it cost north of $150 million to make (as much as $170 million by some reports). The film was financed by Graham King’s GK Films and distributed by Paramount, which takes a fee. But for the film to be profitable for its financiers, it’ll have to earn as much as $450 million at the box office. Now it’s just brought in a total of $83 million worldwide. ‘Hugo’s is still in theaters after 9 weeks—we’ll see if audiences can be lured in after the nominations news.

What Happened to Pixar?

This is the first time since the Academy launched the category of “Best Animated Feature” that a Pixar film has not been nominated. In fact, Pixar films have handily taken home the gold in this category with films like Ratatouille and Wall-E for years. Instead, DreamWorks Animation came out on top with two nominations in the category—Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots. Unfortunately the parents and kids buying those DVDs tend not to pay much attention to Oscar buzz.

George vs. Brad

Expect a face-off between George and Brad—the buddies who also happen to be two of the biggest stars in the world. George Clooney’s ‘The Descendants’ earned him an “actor in a leading role nomination, one of five the movie grabbed. He also got attention for “Ides of March,” for best adapted screenplay. Brad Pitt was nominated for best actor for “Moneyball,” one of that film’s six nominations, including Best Picture. And though he didn’t earn any nominations for ‘Tree of Life,’ he starred in the film that snagged three noms, including Best Picture.

The Weinsteins Still Have What it Takes:

Bob and Harvey Weinstein still have what it takes – bringing home a slew of nominations for low budget artsy fare. The fact that ‘The Artist’ is in black and white and silent, no less, makes it a long shot for any box office success, but the film has hit a nerve. Not only has it grossed $33 million worldwide, but it’s well positioned as it expands in more theaters, to profit from the Oscar attention. After all, the smaller a film, the more the Oscar spotlight helps. That’s not all—The Weinsteins “Iron Lady,” starring Meryl Streep, as well as “My Week with Marilyn” both won two nominations.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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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.