12 Years a Slave: back on the gold chain gang

Post-Oscar, the sky’s the limit for the big winners

Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar winner for best supporting actress in 12 Years a Slave

Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar winner for best supporting actress in 12 Years a Slave


So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, Awards Season 2014. We’ve enjoyed your relative unpredictability and tangents: remember when the officially Oscar-free American Hustle was tipped to win everything? Poor David O. Poor Jlaw.

Many of last Sunday’s winners had yet to stagger home from the Vanity Fair after-party when the Oscar Effect kicked in at the box office in. To wit, 12 Years a Slave earned close to three times what it made the previous Monday, according to US box office dailies. The post-Oscar glow saw the unimpeachable recipient of the Academy Award for Best Picture take $150,781 in the 24 hours immediately after the ceremony. Now on week 20 of its purposely slow US release, Steve McQueen’s impactful drama took $56,016 in receipts on the previous Monday.

The numbers aren’t huge (a select theatrical run is never going to match the Godzilla trailer in terms of eye traffic), but the percentage jump is significant. In February, IBISWorld, an industry and market research firm, released a five-year box office report on Hollywood’s glitziest night out.

It made for cartoon dollar-eyed reading: a Best Picture Oscar winner earns about $13.8 million more post-win than its fellow nominees. Nominees earn, on average, a 55.7 per cent profit from their box office sales alone; the industry average, by way of comparison, is 7.5 per cent.

In many respects, 12 Years a Slave was already an Oscar winner. In the week after it was shortlisted across nine Academy Award categories, the film jumped 415 per cent in ticket sales. Its trickle-effect US release pattern (an awards season strategy that can seriously backfire) worked. The film made the Academy’s end-of-year deadline and has rolled out steadily since October. It’s currently playing in 411 US cinemas and can – history tells us – expect to add up to $10 million to the $50,487,077 already taken in the US.

Elsewhere, in the strange non-US blob known as Rest of World, 12 Years has performed even better. The film has made $89.9 million – just over 64 per cent of its trade – outside North America. On these shores, it has taken €1,701,598 and hangs on in the top 10 after eight weeks on release.

In other domestic news, thank crumbs for Liam Neeson and Ice Cube. Were it not for Non-Stop and Ride Along placing second and third in last weekend’s chart, the ROI box office would hardly have budged since our last report. The Lego Movie continues to trounce all comers in the top spot, with a running total of €2,665,485 after three weeks; The Wolf of Wall Street has €2,255,559 after seven; Frozen has passed €3.7 million after 13. Frozen is now the second biggest grossing animated film of all time, having taken more than $1 billion globally.

Our favourite Potato footnote belongs to the lower regions of the charts. Across Ireland and the UK, Nymphomaniac 1 did almost precisely twice as much business as Nymphomaniac 2, suggesting that many punters did not return for seconds. Except, that is, in Northern Ireland, where both Nymphomaniacs sit shoulder to shoulder, at 23 and 24 in the box office chart, with only a few pounds between them.

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