ByJerome Maida, writer at
Jerome Maida

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences should get down on their hands and knees and find some way to thank the people behind "American Sniper" and, to a lesser extent, "The Imitation Game" this year.

Because without those two films in the running this year, the ratings for this year's Academy Awards would likely be as miniscule as those for "resurrection".

The simple reason for that is this year, more than usual, the Academy selected nominees in the Best Picture category - and other major categories - that vERY few people have seen.

In fact, when the Academy announced it's list of nominees, those for Best Picture were, collectively, the lowest-grossing Best Picture nominees, by far, since the Academy expanded the field beyond nominees.

At the time of the announcement back in January, the eight movies nominated for Best Picture - "American Sniper", "The Imitation Game", "The Grand Budapest Hotel", "Selma", "Birdman", "The Theory of Everything", "Boyhood" and "Whiplash" had earned a combined $203.1 million domestically.

The previous low was 2011, when the movies had earned a combined $519 million ahead of nominations.

That means the films sold LESS THAN HALF as many tickets as THE PREVIOUS LOW Oscar field.

Even with "American Sniper" exploding upon it's wide release after the announcement - and with a current domestic take of $309 million - and "The Imitation Game" slowly gaining screens and momentum to a possible breaking of the $100 million barrier, the field still pales in comparison to previous years in terms of the American public paying to see them.

With "American Sniper" accounting for a bulk of the total with $309 million and "The Imitation Game" steadily luring audiences to the tune of $81 million, the eight nominated films account for a piddling $605 million in domestic office.

That means "American Sniper" and "The Imitation Game" account for nearly 2/3 of the domestic box-office for all eight nominees.

It is also a far cry from the $813 million generated by the Oscar nominees for 2013 films ($813 million) and 2012 films ($1 billion).

Which still might not be enough to get audiences to watch since basically no one has seen "The Grand Budapest Hotel" ($59 million); "Birdman" ($36 million), "The Theory of Everything" ($33 million), "Boyhood" ($25 million) and "Whiplash" ($10 million).

Having a majority of the nominated 8 films be films no one knows or cares about will undeniably create less interest. It would be different if "American Sniper" was being hyped as a favorite to win. Or Bradley Cooper.

Instead, the two Best Picture favorites have raked in a "whopping $61 million. Which will cause many of them to catch up on binge-watching other shows, renting a film or doing ANYTHING ELSE but watch The Oscars.

It would also help if there were some competitive races. Besides the battle between the two favorites no one really cares about, "Birdman" and "Boyhood", for Best Picture and the only other category seemingly with any suspense is the Best Actor category, where Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne do battle and represent two films no one has seen.

Even the supposed battle for Best Director seems to have shifted heavily in "Boyhood" director Richard Linklater's favor.Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu seems like a big underdog at this point.

The other races aren't even close - and again, are for performances very few people have seen and have investment in.

By all accounts J.K. Simmons is a worthy favorite for Supporting Actor in "Whiplash", but the film has never been shown in more than 567 theaters nationwide and has barely passed the $10 million mark in domestic ticket sales.

In the same vein, Patricia Arquette is an overwhelming favorite to win Best Supporting Actress for "Boyhood", a film that came out in July, has only grossed $25 million and has not even generated $1 million on only 224 screen s since it's nomination!

Perhaps most ridiculous, even though Julianne Moore has been an overwhelming favorite for Best Actress since before the nominations were announced, it opened last month in only 12 theaters and JUST went wide this weekend!

Did nobody involved WANT anyone to see Moore's performance?

Of course, it hasn't always been this way. Just last year, box-office hits like "Gravity", "American Hustle", "The Wolf of Wall Street" and "Captain Phillips" were Oscar contenders in several categories.

Oh, well, at least there's a slight chance for an "American Sniper" upset.


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