Is the smart money going for a three-in-a-row at the Academy Awards?
While Irish hopes for Oscar glory remain very much alive, the relentless business machine behind Hollywood is still a honey pot for some, writes Anousha Sakoui
The filmmakers with the most to gain from a best picture Oscar victory this weekend have already taken home Hollywood's top prize - for two years in a row.
New Regency Productions could score a rare three-in-a-row at the 88th Academy Awards tonight with a win for The Revenant, the frontier drama featuring Leonardo DiCaprio. The company, along with distributor 20th Century Fox, already holds the last two best-picture Oscars with 2015's Birdman and 12 Years a Slave from 2014. In addition, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu could grab the directing award for the second straight year.
The chance to win three Oscars in a row adds a new dimension to an annual ceremony that's always been about prestige, artistic merit and box-office sales, as well as the glamorous stars who take the stage. Tonight's pageantry is an opportunity for New Regency, backed by the film division of 21st Century Fox and Fortress Investment Group, to burnish its credentials in all three areas. The awards telecast begins at 1.30am Irish time.
"It is hard to make a drama that actually succeeds and wins best picture," said Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations, an industry consultant. New Regency, with its ties to directors such as Inarritu and casting like DiCaprio, who's up for the best-actor award, is "making smart choices", he said.
The film, made at an estimated cost of $135m, has taken in $383.6m in worldwide ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo, another researcher. It will bolster those totals this weekend and beyond, analysts said, given that it was still in more than 1,900 cinemas - the most of any Oscar contender.
"The Revenant definitely has the most potential to see the biggest bump, especially if it wins," said Erik Davis, managing editor at the online ticketing website Fandango. Sales for the picture jumped 80pc within 24 hours of its nomination for the top prize on January 14, Fandango said.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which hands out the Oscars, can't find an example of a single company winning best picture three times in a row, even though many have multiple wins. For the first 24 years of the Oscars, the award was given to the studio that distributed the winning film, not the producer. Box Office Mojo lists United Artists as a three-time winning distributor in the 1970s.
New Regency, led by founder and majority owner Arnon Milchan, declined to comment, as did Fox.
The Revenant went into the Oscars as the favourite among some bookies, with 12 nominations and several wins behind it, including best film drama at the Golden Globes, best picture at the Bafta Awards in the UK and the top prize at the Directors Guild of America. Inarritu, who also directed Birdman, was the first to win the DAG award two years running. That prize is a closely watched indicator of Oscar sentiment.
The Revenant is also the newest release of the eight contenders, according to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at researcher ComScore Inc, and was still in the top 10 last weekend for US box-office sales.
The closest competitors for the top prize - the newspaper drama Spotlight and the Matt Damon film The Martian - have already been in theatres for months.
Last year's best-picture winner Birdman generated 37pc of its total ticket sales after its nomination and 11pc after it grabbed the top prize, according to ComScore. The boxing drama Million Dollar Baby, starring Hilary Swank, nearly doubling its ticket sales after being nominated, according to data from ComScore.
While The Revenant might not do that well after the Oscars, ticket sales jumped 80pc in the 24 hours after its nomination for best picture, according to Fandango.
Like a lot of Hollywood productions today, The Revenant has a long list of credits. The film's other producers include Anonymous Content, DiCaprio's production company Appian Way, RatPac Entertainment and Monarchy Enterprises, according to Imdb.com.
New Regency, which is 20pc owned by Fox, raised $200m from funds led by Fortress last July. Founded in 1991 by Milchan, a former Israeli intelligence officer who still owns 80pc, the company co-produced the TV series Malcolm in the Middle.
The new loans will fund film production and growth in its re-established TV business, according to the LA-based company. In December, New Regency will release Assassin's Creed, an action film based on the best-selling video game. The picture stars Irishman Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.