Sooner or later, every film fan who engages in discussion of movies will encounter both of the following disparaging remarks:
- Those snooty Academy Awards! Why do they always nominate obscure art films? In 20 years, nobody will remember them. When the films of today have stood the test of time, they’ll have been forgotten. The films people will remember, see, and cherish are the ones that dominate the box office!
- The public is stupid! Every year they turn the most mindless drivel into cash cows. But the fame these movies have will not endure. When the films of today have stood the test of time, they’ll have been forgotten. The films people will remember, see, and cherish are the ones that win Academy Awards!
These claims are obviously at odds with each other. They can both be false, but they cannot both be true, except in cases where the movies that win at the box office are also the ones garnering awards attention. In all probability, both statements are partially true: that is, some of the old movies we remember were box office hits and some were award winners. And some were both and some neither, but never mind. What I am interested in exploring is which of these two statements is more true? That is, if we are to use either the box office or the Academy Awards to predict which which of today’s movies will be seen and loved in 20 or more years, which would yield the more accurate forecast?
Technical details follow; skip to the pretty graphs at the bottom if you so desire.