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The big picture around 'Best Picture'

The 89th Academy Awards aren't until Feb. 26, but it's the Oscar nominations announced Tuesday that make a bigger difference for a movie's bottom line. "La La Land" got 14 nods, putting it in a tie with "Titanic" and "All About Eve" for the most nominations ever.

Call it the "nomination bounce" — when a film gets the nod, moviegoers rush out to see it in the weeks between nominations and the awards themselves. By the time the actual awards have come, people have either seen it or aren't going to.

Look at "127 Hours," the 2010 drama about James Franco being trapped under a boulder in Utah. After enjoying initial success late in the year, ticket sales had pretty much stalled by the time nominations came out in mid-January 2011. Six nominations gave the movie new life at the box office. The week after the nominations, the movie made $3 million, up from less than $200,000 the prior week.

"The nomination definitely increases interest in the film among moviegoers," said Bruce Nash, founder of Nash Information Services, a movie industry consulting firm. "But the studio will also be able to bump up the number of theaters after a nomination, because movie theaters know there'll be an increase in demand."

Think about it: When the Best Picture nominations are announced, there are 10 films to choose from. Each has a chance of winning, so moviegoers flock to more of them. People want to get out and see the flick before the awards, so they can judge for themselves or have the best sample for their office Oscar pool.

Even winning the Best Picture Oscar doesn't mean a film will get a big post-award bounce. Take "The Artist," the black-and-white romance about the change from silent films to talkies. After receiving 10 Oscar nods, the movie took in more than $15.4 million in the four full weeks between nominations and the awards. The following four weeks after winning Best Picture, it made just over $10 million.

"The Artist" was nontraditional enough that it may not have appealed to mainstream audiences, Nash said, so the publicity from the Best Picture win wasn't enough to give it a huge boost in revenue.

This year, watch the box office totals for "La La Land" and "Hidden Figures" between now and Feb. 26, Nash said. The former came out at a good time to gain momentum before the nominations came out, but hasn't been around so long that people are tired of seeing it. It's made about $90 million so far, according to Box Office Mojo.

"The only other film that fits into that popular-and-Oscar-worthy category this year is 'Hidden Figures,' which could continue a great run at the box office for a while," Nash said.

The bottom line: Today is a more important day for the industry than award night itself.