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your box office explained

Your Box Office Explained: Oscar Nominations Lift Zero Dark, Lincoln, and Silver Linings

This Weekend’s Winners: Almost all Best Picture Oscar nominees enjoyed a healthy box-office bounce from their nods, particularly Sony’s Zero Dark Thirty (No. 1 with $24 million), which pole-vaulted to just shy of 3,000 theaters after weeks spent gathering steam. So, too, Lincoln (No. 7 with $6.3 million) jumping 17 percent and Silver Linings Playbook (No. 10 with $5 million) leaping 38 percent.

This Weekend’s Losers: Warner Bros.' Gangster Squad (No. 3 with $16.7 million) underwhelmed, and getting its clocked cleaned by horror parody A Haunted House (No. 2 with $18.8 million) probably doesn’t help matters. Also: Django Unchained (No. 4 with $11 million) was one of the few Best Picture nominees suffering a decline (45 percent) from the prior week despite its Best Picture nomination.

How It All Went Down: “January used to be a buffer for awards season,” said one top motion picture agent, “Now all the award shows got moved up so early in the year, so perhaps the newer, [Oscar ineligible] films that are released in January were squeezed out?”

Ironically, part of the current success of Oscar-nominated films Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook was the great difficulty that both Columbia Pictures and the Weinstein Company faced in marketing both. For example, insiders say that Silver Linings was scheduled to have gone wide at Thanksgiving, but its complex and unflinching look at mental illness meant that its marketing stubbornly resisted a wide release. So, too, with Zero Dark, which Sony moved from a Christmastime wide release into a more tailored “platform” approach that yielded this weekend’s box office crown.

Perhaps. Though, not to piss on anyone’s parade, but the outsize “success” of these nominated pictures is also due, at least in part, to the failure of some new and recent openers: Despite its gold-plated cast, with a pile of bad reviews, Gangster Squad will be lucky to hit $50 million in the States. Last week’s No. 1 film, Texas Chainsaw 3D, plunged this weekend, losing a whopping three fourths of its audience and grossing just $5 million. Just as it's true that “all that glitters is not gold,” it’s equally true that you can’t polish a turd.