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'Black Panther' doesn't need a box office bump from the Oscars — but 'Green Book' and 'The Favourite' will cash in

Key Points
  • Starting this weekend, seven of the Academy's eight best picture nominees will be heading back to the big screen.
  • Theaters bring the films back because they want to boost foot traffic during the slow months of January and February.
  • Production companies push for a re-release to capitalize on their films' newfound prestige.
Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in Vice.
Source: Annapurna Pictures

Didn't have the time to see "BlacKkKlansman" or "The Favourite" yet? You'll soon get another chance.

Starting this weekend, seven of the Academy's eight best picture nominees, announced on Tuesday, will be heading back to the big screen or receiving a wider release if they were currently in theaters.

The months of January and February tend to be slow for movie theaters. There are fewer movie releases and the ones that do hit theaters rarely draw big audiences. In fact, through the first three weeks of 2019, ticket sales across the industry are down 13 percent, compared to the same time frame last year, according to Comscore.

That's where the best picture films come in. Theaters want to boost foot traffic and production companies want to capitalize on their films' newfound prestige, so they make a deal and the nominees are afforded another run at the box office.

This year, "Black Panther," "BlacKkKlansman," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "The Favourite," "Green Book," "A Star Is Born" and "Vice" will reappear at cinemas. Although, you may only be able to see "Roma," Netflix's nominated film on the streaming platform.

Major theater chains like AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas showcase the best picture nominees each year, offering audiences a chance to catch the films they missed during the previous year. And smaller theaters hoping to get more customers into seats will also start showing these films again.

Oscar nominated films have "emotional equity," Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, told CNBC. Audiences that may have been disinterested in these films previously or skipped them when they were first released in favor of seeing a blockbuster feature, now have new reason to see them.

Last year, nominees "Call Me By Your Name" and "The Shape of Water" saw their box office totals double after their nominations were announced, according to Comscore data. "Phantom Thread" earned 70 percent of its total gross following its nomination.

"The Shape of Water," which went on to win the Academy Award for best picture, hit theaters in early December and earned $30 million by the time it was nominated in late January, according to Comscore data. The nomination and redistribution in theater helped the film earn another $33 million, $6.2 million of which came after it won the top award.

Of course, not all films see a massive bump following their Oscar nominations. "Get Out" was very well-received by audiences, earning more than $175 million before its nomination. However, because it was released in February, it had already left theaters and was available on DVD and on-demand by the time it was nominated nearly a year later.

Comparatively, seven of the nine films nominated in the same year as "Get Out" were released in November and December.

"Get Out" did get re-released, but only brought in a little over $350,000. Not counted in that figure is any DVD sales or on-demand purchases.

Experts foresee this year's nominee "Black Panther" following a similar pattern. The film, directed by Ryan Coogler, earned more than $700 million at the domestic box office after being released in February. Nearly a year later, the film has already been released on DVD and on-demand.

While some audiences may go to theaters to see the superhero flick on the big screen, some might opt to purchase it and watch it at home if they haven't seen it already.

It is also likely that "A Star is Born" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" could see a surge in DVD and on-demand sales, as both were recently released to the public, Shawn Robbins, senior analyst at BoxOffice, said.

"Some of these films don't need an Oscar bump," Dergarabedian said. "For some, you are getting the prestige, not the dollars."

The "Oscar bump" that a film receives depends on a number of factors and some films get a bigger bump than others.

Audiences are often swayed to see a movie based on how much media attention it is getting or if the film previously had a more limited distribution.

So, each year it can be difficult to predict exactly how much money a film will make at the box office if it gets a nomination.

"Arrival," which received a best picture nomination in 2017, opened in more than 2,000 theaters and only saw a 5 percent bump after its nomination. Ultimately, it pulled in more than $100 million in ticket sales in the U.S.

Comparatively, fellow nominee "Lion" opened in only four theaters before getting a wider release. The film earned 68 percent of its total $51 million after its nomination.

For this reason, "'Bohemian Rhapsody' and 'A Star is Born' have less to gain," Doug Stone, president of Box Office Analyst, said. "But, 'Green Book' and 'Vice' might have more legs."

"Green Book" opened in about 25 theaters in November before getting a wider release to about 1,000 locations. "Vice" hit theaters on Dec. 25 at about 2,000 theaters while "The Favourite" was released on Dec. 26 in four theaters before getting a larger release in about 800 theaters.

"BlacKkKlansman," too could see a solid bump in ticket sales, Stephen Macias, senior vice president at MWW, said. While the film was released in August, the nomination of director Spike Lee, his first for best directing, could drive moviegoers to theaters to support the film.

"The Oscars are the greatest spotlight you can put on a movie," Comscore's Dergarabedian said.