Features and Columns · Movies

‘Green Book’ Had the Best Post-Oscars Box Office Bump in 10 Years

The Academy Award winner for Best Picture booked more theaters and collected a lot more green following its success at the Oscars.
Viggo Mortensen Green Book
Universal Pictures
By  · Published on March 4th, 2019

The box office bump is real, and for this year’s Best Picture winner, the increase in ticket sales over the weekend was more noticeable than usual. Green Book followed up its big triumph on February 24th by climbing back up the box office chart, reaching sixth place for the third time in its three-and-a-half months in theaters.

The crowd-pleasing drama wasn’t exactly suffering beforehand; its overall theatrical attendance was the fourth best of the eight Oscar nominees in the Best Picture category. The movie’s success has been steady in the background, though, and only ever reached its previous best placement, sixth, the weekend after the Academy announced its nominees in late January.

Technically, this past weekend wasn’t Green Book‘s greatest, box office wise. The movie sold the most tickets (609,200) in its first weekend in wide release. Next best (607,800) was its first weekend as a contender for Best Picture. This past weekend was Green Book‘s best attendance since then (5206,500), helped by Universal more than doubling its screen count.

That boost was a 115% increase over the movie’s prior weekend. That’s only the best gain for a newly cemented Best Picture winner since Moonlight two years ago, though comparisons aren’t easily made given the differences in release dates and prior popularity ahead of the Academy Awards.

But let’s look at the last 11 years of box office boosts for the top Oscar prize winners anyway:

Other Best Picture winners in the past decade have had greater increases, percentage-wise (Moonlight, Spotlight). And others sold more tickets compared to their sales up to that point (Moonlight, The Artist). Another sold more tickets in its first weekend as a Best Picture winner (The King’s Speech). One other movie reached its best chart placement after winning (The Artist).

Still, Green Book looks to have had the greatest combination of data since Slumdog Millionaire was crowned back in 2009. That movie was already doing well and so only saw an increase of 43.4%, but its attendance, percentage of its then-total sales, and box office placement was its best yet at #3.

The best combination compared to Green Book goes back further with Unforgiven in 1993. Clint Eastwood’s revisionist Western increased 197% for 613,100 tickets sold and a rise in placement to 8th from an unknown spot. But that still wasn’t a climb to the movie’s best spot yet. Unforgiven was the rare eventual Best Picture winner that opened in first place and stayed there awhile.

We have to go back to 1988 and The Last Emperor for such a boost: following the April 11th Oscars telecast that year, Bernardo Bertolucci’s nearly four-hour China-set epic saw a 306% increase for 826,900 tickets and a rise in placement from 16th to 4th. And that weekend’s attendance was a whopping 12% of its total so far.

More Oscar winners from this year saw boosts of their own over the weekend. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was back on more than 2,000 screens after being named Best Animated Feature, and thereby it saw an increase of 143.3% over the prior weekend’s attendance. A Star is Born, which won the Best Original Song Academy Award, shot up 203.9%.

Best Actor and Best Actress winners Bohemian Rhapsody and The Favourite and Best Documentary Feature winner Free Solo all saw boosts — respectively, 54%, 46.1%, and 155.4%. Meanwhile, Best Makeup and Hairstyling winner Vice dropped 59.2%, and If Beale Street Could Talk, for which Regina King won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, dipped 8%.

Oscar losers understandably saw major decreases in attendance. The Wife fell 76.4% after Glenn Close surprisingly failed to finally win an Academy Award for Best Actress, and Ralph Breaks the Internet fell 40.1%, though that’s more likely because the movie is now out on home video. The Oscar-nominated shorts programs fell a whopping 81.8%. Foreign nominees Cold War, Capernaum, Shoplifters, and Never Look Away all dropped, too.

But Mary Poppins Returns managed to increase 8.9% despite losing in all four of its Oscar categories. That’s some magic.

In other box office news, while How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World held the top spot, Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral closed out the Madea franchise with its third-lowest opening yet. Greta didn’t prove to be a major it, but it’s still one of Neil Jordan’s best openers ever and Isabelle Huppert’s second-best domestic debut.

The most notable newbies were in limited release. Apollo 11 continued to prove documentaries are back in business theatrically with a 15th-place opening with 178,000 tickets sold in just 120 locations. And that wasn’t even the best per-screen average of the weekend, as Gaspar Noe’s Climax and Christian Petzold’s Transit performed even better at fewer than 10 theaters each.

Here are the weekend’s top 10 titles by the number of tickets sold with new and newly wide titles in bold and totals in parentheses:

1. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – 3.3 million (10.8 million)
2. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral – 3 million (3 million)
3. Alita: Battle Angel – 0.8 million (8 million)
4. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part – 0.7 million (10.2 million)
5. Fighting with My Family – 0.52 million (1.7 million)
6. Green Book – 0.51 million (8.4 million)
7. Isn’t It Romantic – 0.5 million (4.5 million)
8. Greta – 0.496 million (0.5 million)
9. What Men Want – 0.31 million (5.5 million)
10. Happy Death 2U – 0.27 million (2.8 million)

All box office figures via Box Office Mojo.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.