Despite the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ attempts to make the Oscars a more populist affair (their decision to allow up to nine Best Picture nominees has allowed for more than just prestige films to be in the running), over half the country hasn’t seen a single one of the nine films it found to be the best of the year.
A new Morning Consult poll reported by Vanity Fair has found that just 44.7% of Americans have seen either Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester By the Sea, or Moonlight. This figure makes sense, as just two of the nine films (La La Land and Hidden Figures) have made more than $100 million at the box office, and four of them (Moonlight, HOHW, MBTS, and Lion) made under $50 million. Based on the average ticket price of around $8.90, even the year’s highest-grossing best picture nominee, Hidden Figures, has only been seen by around 15 million people. (Which, by the way, is about 309 million too few.)
But let’s get back to the poll. The most notable find—and one that isn’t necessarily surprising—is that most Americans simply don’t give a fuck whether or not a movie has been nominated for an Oscar. 71% of Americans make their decision to see a movie based on its stars (this explains Hidden Figures, because my god, that cast), 62% decide because of trailers, 48% because of word of mouth, and just 34% because of Oscar nominations.
The point is, moviegoers see movies for exactly the reasons you’d think: they like the stars, and a friend told them it was good. But that doesn’t mean the Oscars are worthless. A 34% bump isn’t nothing, and puts more eyes on small movies with newcomers in lead roles—movies like Moonlight. (I’m still hoping it sneaks in for a win later this month.)