Do British people like Oscar Award winning films?

Do British people go to the cinema to watch Oscar winning films? Data analysis shows that it’s not that simple.

Analysis of the top 15 highest grossing films from 2013 to 2023 that have won at least one Oscar, courtesy of the British Film Institute shows only three of the top 15 also feature on the list of top 15 Oscar winners in that same period.

Oppenheimer, which grossed almost a billion dollars worldwide in 2023 and won seven Oscars – the most since 2013 – was the fourth highest grossing film in that time.

However, the second, third and fourth films for Oscar wins (Everything Everywhere All At Once, Gravity and Dune) did not feature on the top 15 list, with La La Land at fifth just sneaking on.

So why do the highest grossing films not win as many awards as other films? They have the budget and the UK audience seems to like them.

Tom Waters, Lecturer in Film Production and Cinematography at Wiltshire College & University Centre, explained: “Very high grossing films like the Marvel films tend to be more about spectacle.

“They are closer to a cinematic rollercoaster, although still competently scripted with good characters etc.

“Many of the Oscar winners will be more character led pieces that will have popular appeal but will be seen as more cerebral or dealing with important issues.

“The critical establishment tends to favour character led pieces to action spectacles and franchise films. But audiences love them. 50 Shades of Gray is probably a good example of this. Critics panned it but it made a fortune.”

On the flip side, why are the multi-award-winning films less appealing to the mass audience? What do film critics find attractive that the rest of the public does not?

George Nash, Freelance Film Critic, said: “I don’t think award winning films are necessarily less appealing but in an era of seemingly infinite choice, it often comes down to how well a film is marketed.

“Selling a zany premise like that of Oscar winning Everything Everywhere All at Once – a wacky multiverse action comedy with googly-eyed rocks and frankfurter fingers that is also a poignant examination of family dynamics and the Asian-American experience – can be tough.

“Particularly in today’s economy, during a cost-of-living crisis, people are understandably hesitant to spend their money, and indeed their time, on something that’s less familiar, something they’re unsure what exactly it is they are signing up two hours of their life for.

“Obviously winning awards can certainly help boost the pulling power of a film but ultimately it can still be a gamble for mainstream audiences.”

After grouping the films in ranges of total gross and adding the total awards won by each film in each group, the analysis showed that most Oscars are won by low grossing films.

This analysis went deeper into the data by including the 162 films that won an Oscar in the last 10 years, instead of only using the top 15 grossing films.

What are the highest grossing films missing for them to become multi-award winning films?

What is the key element to become a successful film on both sides (awards and money) such as Oppenheimer?

Andreas Davies, final year Film Student at the University of Essex said: “With regards to the highest grossing films, such as the Fast and Furious franchise, I would say they’ve done a good job of having elements that would attract people to go and watch them.

“They’ve got the stars, the visuals and they utilise those things in a way that they’re able to be part of a long running series. 

“My gut instinct was to say marketing but we’ve been seeing a lot of independent films well marketed. For example, Longlegs, a low budget film coming out this summer, has built anticipation by using trailers without mentioning the title and cryptic symbols to advertise. People are very excited about it.”

Nash added: “I don’t think there is anything an award-winning film does that a top grossing film cannot do – and vice versa.

“But there are concerning elements on both sides. I worry about films and franchises becoming little more than cash cows, but I also worry about a lack of diversity when it comes to awards – in both the diversity of films and filmmakers considered, and also the diversity in the judges of those films.”

Waters concluded: “Part of winning an Oscar depends on campaign lobbying by academy members, academy politics and with what members might see as a ‘worthy’ winner. It is not related to profit.”

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