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Movie studios are banking on an Oscar bump

January 15, 2015, 11:30 PM UTC

A small, elite group of Hollywood actors, directors and screenwriters soaked up the love Thursday for their Academy Award nominations. Meanwhile, the movie studios that put out those celebrated films counted the financial windfall headed their way.

Moviegoers inevitably flock to nominated films to see what all the fuss is about. Ticket sales can improve by millions of dollars from the so-called “Oscars bump.”

In recent years, films nominated for the Oscars’ Best Picture award have seen their post-nomination box-office performances improve by anywhere from 18% in 2013, to more than 32% a year earlier, according to Box Office Mojo. (Interestingly, winners at another awards show, the Golden Globes, often see a greater windfall than at the Academy Awards.)

Films that win the Oscar get an even bigger lift. Between 1990 and 2009, Best Picture winners gained an additional $14 million on average in the weeks and months after some star opened an envelope on stage and called their names, according to BoxOfficeQuant. Of course, the bump in revenue differs across the various award categories with films that win for directing getting a bigger windfall than those handed out for acting.

Also, winning an Oscar isn’t cheap. Film studios often pour tens of millions of dollars into advertising to get Academy members to vote for their movie. Their hope is that all the awards show coverage in the media will serve as free advertising.

This is all to say that an Oscar nomination (and potential win) can mean big bucks for studios and their parent companies. This year, the leader when it comes to nominations is 20th Century Fox (FOX), whose Fox Searchlight subsidiary is responsible for the two films that received the most Oscar nods on Thursday: Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel, both which received nine nominations including for Best Picture.

Overall, Fox landed a whopping 24 nominations from seven films including Gone Girl and Wild. That huge helping of critical acclaim capped a wildly successful year for the company, whose box-office gross increased 68% year-over-year at a time when many other studios struggled from sinking ticket sales.

Meanwhile, Sony (SNE) — which had a rough year that included a high-profile hack and controversy over the film The Interview — scored the second-most Oscar nominations, with 15. The company’s Sony Classics studio arm turned out a pair of films, Whiplash and Foxcatcher, that received five nominations each. In third place, was Warner Bros., with 11 nominations, including six for the Clint Eastwood-directed American Sniper.

Thursday wasn’t just a big day for major studios and their parent companies, either. The Weinstein Company — a “mini-major” studio led by moguls Harvey and Bob Weinstein — racked up 10 Oscar nods, led by eight nominations for Best Picture-contender The Imitation Game. And, IFC Films, which is owned by cable channel operator AMC Networks (AMC), received a total of eight nominations, with Golden Globes Best Picture winner Boyhood leading the way with six nods.

For smaller studios that generally put out lower-grossing independent films, any increased revenue spurred by awards season can make a big difference. Big or small, though, several studios across Hollywood are likely feeling like they hit the jackpot Thursday.