By now we know that there’s no rule that says a movie that sells the most tickets will take home the Academy Award for best film of the year.
After all, last year’s top-grossing movie, the third installment in The Hunger Games series, was nominated for exactly zero Academy Awards. (Sadly, there is no category for best heroine archer.) In fact, the last time a year’s highest-grossing film also took home the Best Picture Oscar was in 2003, when the top film was The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which raked in more than $500 million in adjusted domestic sales.
Still, there’s an expectation that the crop of movies dubbed the “best” each year by critics will at least get a reasonable amount of love at the box office. But the winner of last night’s Oscar for Best Picture, Birdman, was only the 82nd best-grossing film of 2014, with only about $37 million in domestic ticket sales. (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay —Part 1, by contrast, grossed more than $330 million in the U.S.)
Now, it’s very likely that Birdman will get a financial boost from a well-known phenomenon known as the “Oscar bump,” where moviegoers finally decide to hit the theaters to watch films that win the prestigious critical award. In fact, Birdman has made more than $11 million of its total gross so far since last month’s announcement of the 2015 Oscar nominations.
Even with a boost in ticket sales potentially on the way, though, Birdman is currently among the lowest-grossing Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards over at least the past four decades. In fact, only one film in recent years saw lower ticket sales before taking home the golden statue with the “Best Picture” inscription.
Here are the five lowest-grossing Best Picture winners of the past four decades. (Note: All box-office figures are domestic totals adjusted for ticket price inflation. Source: Box Office Mojo.)
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