2021 Oscar Season Box Office Wrap-Up: December

Below is a wrap-up of the predictions I made several months ago, an exploration of what succeeded and what failed, and how I observe things to have gone.

December 3, 2021

Wolf

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “None.”
Oscar Results: None.
Box Office Prospects: $1.5 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Poor. If this is truly releasing wide, it has little hope of doing well as the concept is far too strange to be a hit.”
Box Office Results: $0.147 M
Thoughts: [Flop] As with many indie films that are initially listed as wide releases, this one ultimately released in limited runs and still didn’t manage to make much of an impact.

Nightmare Alley (Limited)

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Good. Del Toro has also been a surprisingly consistent Oscar player with The Shape of Water doing far better with Oscar voters than initially expected. With this being a remaking of a film noir, it could also do well.”
Oscar Results: Success. The film picked up for Oscar nominations, including a not-certain Best Picture citation. Three of the nominees were in craft categories. None of the four resulted in a win.
Box Office Prospects: $45 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. Guillermo del Toro has made a lot of money at the box office, but his smaller efforts, with big names, tend to also do decently at the box office. How that works out during the pandemic remains to be seen.”
Box Office Results: $11.3 M
Thoughts: [Flop] Del Toro is quite the aquired taste and while fans of his style should have found this movie great fun, they didn’t seem to turn out for it at the box office.

December 10, 2021

West Side Story

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Good. Depending on how the film turns out, and no one has really seen it yet, it could be a huge Oscar player as many of Spielberg’s past films have been. How well it does depends on the box office factor as well as the critics factor. Regarldess, it will probably still do well with both.”
Oscar Results: Success. Seven Oscar nominations, including all of the expected ones, but none of the unexpected selections. It came out with a single award for Best Supporting Actress.
Box Office Prospects: $130 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. With his first new film in three years, this could be the event of the Christmas season. That said, Spielberg’s recent history has been hit-or-miss and remaking a beloved cinema musical might not sit well with some. Still, it seems like a safe bet to be yet another $100-plus finisher. How far above remains to be seen.”
Box Office Results: $38.5 M
Thoughts: [Major Flop] The days of massive box office successes for musicals must truly be over if Spielberg, who earned storng reviews for his film, couldn’t manage more than $40 million at the domestic box office.

Don’t Look Up (Limited)

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Uncertain. What McKay has lost in terms of box office revenue, he’s made up for in terms of Oscar attention. Just like this film seems like it might be a slide up in terms of box office, it also seems like it might end up a slide down in terms of Oscar consideration.”
Oscar Results: Minor Success. The film nabbed four total nominations, including Picture, Original Screenplay and two craft categories, but not in directing or acting. So it succeeded, but not exceedingly well.
Box Office Prospects: $65 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. Adam McKay’s straight comedies did really well, but his political films have done modest business. While this isn’t exactly a return to the Anchorman aesthetic, it could be close to The Big Short style.”
Box Office Results: $0 M
Thoughts: Not released to theaters.

Being the Ricardos

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Uncertain. The early reviews have been confusing, but this doesn’t look to be a major Oscar player, but if the rest of the critics come down on the heavily positive side, it could have Oscar intentions.”
Oscar Results: Minor Success. Another film that pulled out nominations, this film got three, but underperformed expectations. The three were all acting nominees, but the perceived solid Original Screenplay nomination and a shaky Best Picture citation were not to be.
Box Office Prospects: $40 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. It’s been 30 years since Aaron Sorkin has been involved in a $100-million plus movie. It was also his big screen screenwriting debut. This will be his second directorial effort, but his first was released digitally and never had a box office impact, so who really knows for sure. Based solely on the subject matter, it could be a surprise hit, but it could as easily be a mediocre one.”
Box Office Results: $0 M
Thoughts: Not released to theaters.

December 17, 2021

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Uncertain. This franchise hasn’t had much Oscar success in quite some time, so I don’t expect much this time around either.”
Oscar Results: Unexceptional. There was a huge push to make this $804 million success a Best Picture nominee, but ultimately, the film only nabbed a Visual Effects nomination, but lost to Dune.
Box Office Prospects: $250 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Good. The third film in the Tom Holland-as-Spider-Man trilogy will be a test for how well Sony can do without a major name from the Disney MCU to support it. I suspect it will under perform.”
Box Office Results: $804.4 M
Thoughts: [Major Success] No one could have guessed that this film would soar to such heights. It was well reviwed, but its stratospheric success seems at odds with everything else around it, including other MCU films.

The Tender Bar (Limited)

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Uncertain. Although early word has been positive, it’s been 16 years since Clooney had a film that was important enough to score lots of Oscar nominations. Could this follow Good Night, and Good Luck. and The Ides of March to an Oscar nomination or a few? We’ll see, but it will need to be incredibly well received by critics.”
Oscar Results: Failure. The film really didn’t have a lot of hope, though there was some late-breaking support for a Ben Affleck nomination. That didn’t materialize.
Box Office Prospects: $15 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Poor. The best George Clooney, as a director, can claim for a box office result is the $22 million he pulled out of The Monuments Men back in 2014 and that was almost double his next best effort. Don’t expect a lot of box office prospects for this one.”
Box Office Results: $0 M
Thoughts: Not released to theaters.

December 24, 2021

The King’s Man (12/22)

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “None.”
Oscar Results: None.
Box Office Prospects: $85 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. The first two films both scored over $100 million box office revenue, but the pandemic has changed the calculus and caused this film to push to this year, 4 years after the last entry, which can hurt a film’s box office prospects quite a lot.”
Box Office Results: $37.2 M
Thoughts: [Major Flop] This franchise seemed destined for this kind of outcome. The stylish action adventure film just couldn’t overcome tepid responses from critics and fans.

The Matrix Resurrections (12/22)

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Uncertain. The first film was nominated for and won four Oscars. One of those four categories is now gone. The second and third films were completely ignored because it was more of the same. A lot rides on how well this one does with critics and audiences. If it’s a disappointment, don’t expect Oscar to pay attention, but if it’s a success. It could score a Visual Effects nomination and maybe an off-chance at Sound. Beyond that, the film is unlikely to score.”
Oscar Results: Now none. The only categories it seemed to feature in were Sound and Visual Effects, but the latest franchise film, a franchise that revolutionized visual effects upon its original’s release, didn’t pick up a single nomination.
Box Office Prospects: $150 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. The first film was a box office hit, the second was a smash hit, but the third film, after the disappointment of the second, was a box office underperformer. How will this first new chapter in 18 years do? Who really knows. Maybe people have forgotten how bad the second and third films were. We shall see.”
Box Office Results: $37.7 M
Thoughts: [Major Flop] While the first films were huge successes at the box office, the second and third films left fans disappointed. It doesn’t appear they were terribly excited for the franchise to take another bite at the apple.

Sing 2 (12/22)

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Unlikely. If the first film couldn’t score an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature, the sequel-averse Academy is unlikely to give the follow-up a shot either.”
Oscar Results: Now none. It was the only sequel that had a chance at a nomination and while the Animations Branch doesn’t love sequels, the lack of competition gave it a chance. Unfortunately, that chance didn’t materialize into anything.
Box Office Prospects: $200 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Good. The first film was an absolute smash hit at the box office. This sequel comes 5 years later, which might impact its chances. So, too, could the box office, which has been hampering most family-oriented films of late.”
Box Office Results: $162.7 M
Thoughts: [Success] It was a tough time at the box office and while certain franchises proved pandemic-proof, a lot of them struggled. That’s not the case with this film, which still managed to perform quite well in spite of it all.

American Underdog

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “None.”
Oscar Results: None.
Box Office Prospects: $25 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. Are there really that many Kurt Warner fans out there who would drop money on a biopic about the man’s rise to NFL history? There are a few who might, but I don’t expect it to be a huge hit.”
Box Office Results: $26.5 M
Thoughts: [Unexceptional] It wasn’t a film that demanded attention and didn’t get a lot of press, so its performance is about as expected, but it’s still an unexceptional result.

A Journal for Jordan (12/25)

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Uncertain. The film has to be a huge hit with critics and the only one I can really see earning a nomination is Michael B. Jordan and although Denzel Washington has been praised as a director, he’s not had much success squeezing nominations out of his films.”
Oscar Results: Now none. It could have been a contender, but reviews weren’t great and the film never picked up any precursor steam.
Box Office Prospects: $45 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. The film’s premise is overly familiar, but it’s not a film that often features Black actors, which could be a draw. Unfortunately, it’s going to have to overcome a pandemic box office weakness to make much in the way of money. What could bolster its chances is the Denzel Washington name. He’s not in it, but he’s directing and that might be just enough to give it a boost.”
Box Office Results: $6.4 M
Thoughts: [Flop] Being based on a popular novel is not a recipe for guaranteed success and this tearjerker just didn’t work out.

The Tragedy of Macbeth (12/25) (Limited)

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Good. It’s not the Coen Brothers, it’s just Joel. That might not mean much to the outside world, but it’s going to be modestly concerning for the Academy. Still, they love their risky black-and-white features with prominent actors and directors, so it’s still likely to be a major player this year.”
Oscar Results: Minor Success. The film pulled off three expected nominations, but turned none of them into wins.
Box Office Prospects: $50 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Uncertain. The biggest questino is whether star Denzel Washington can overcome prejudice against black-and-white films and Shakespearean adaptations to make this one a major hit. It’s possible, but I’m not going to count those chickens in advance.”
Box Office Results: $0 M
Thoughts: Not released to theaters.

Parallel Mothers

Oscar Prospects: What I said: “Good. Although the film isn’t going to do much at the box office, Almodovar is earning some of his best notices in some time. A nomination for Penelope Cruz in Best Actress is a possibility, but more likely, he’ll only get a nod in Best Original Screenplay.”
Oscar Results: Minor Success. Two nominations was a pretty good result, though the film had thought to be contending for at least three. It won none of them.
Box Office Prospects: $0.25 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: “Weak. There is no time in the past where director Pedro Almodovar has made a box office smash. The best performance for one of his films was in 2011 for his risky The Skin I Live In. But even that was less than $230,000 in box office receipts. I don’t expect this to perform much better except for being adjusted for inflation.”
Box Office Results: $2.3 M
Thoughts: [Minor Success] Pedro Almodovar hasn’t ever been a big box office draw, so this is a pretty good turnout for him.

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