Feb. 22 - Best Picture contenders for the Academy Award bring in a $2 billion bounty in tickets sales. Conway G. Gittens reports.
The Daily Digit is 2 billion dollars. Preps for Hollywood's biggest night are underway, Oscar statues have yet to be handed out, but the nine Best Picture nominees have already sold a combined $2 billion in tickets worldwide, topping last year's nominees. The shipwreck drama "Life of Pi" towers above the lot with $577 million globally, overcoming skepticism of how the book adaptation about a boy stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger would work on the big screen. Domestically, Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," a story of the U.S. president's fight to end slavery, is leading with $177 million. Second place belongs to Ben Affleck's "Argo," which chronicles the real life rescue of U.S. diplomats from Iran. That flick has taken in $127 million, helped by other awards. The remaining $100-million-plus films locked in the Best Picture battle are "Les Miserables," Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," and romantic drama "Silver Linings Playbook." Sony's "Zero Dark Thirty," the controversial account of the CIA's pursuit of Osama bin Laden, is close with $89 million. Last year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars, was criticized for favoring adult-oriented, art-house films that few people even saw, leaving out action-packed blockbusters favored by teens and young adults who flock to the movies. So this year's inclusion of more commercially successful movies is likely a response to that criticism. All-in-all, it's been a good year for Tinseltown. Total ticket sales were up for all of 2012, the first annual gain in three years, and even more, sales of DVD and other home entertainment products ended a seven-year slump. Hollywood hopes those bigger sales figures translate to more viewers for The Oscars on Sunday. Last year's U.S. audience totaled 39 million, according to Nielsen data, down from 55 million in 1998 when mega-hit "Titanic" swept the awards.