Skip to content

How Success at the Box Office Could Lead to Oscars for “Silver Linings Playbook”

November 19, 2012

By John C.

As the first weekend of the Toronto International Film Festival came to a close back in September, it was already clear that Silver Linings Playbook would emerge as one of the biggest success stories of the early awards season.  Fast forward a few months after it picked up the coveted People’s Choice Award at the festival and the film is set to open in limited release this Wednesday, amidst a flurry of Oscar buzz.

I’ve already seen Silver Linings Playbook twice and find myself falling even more in love with the film the more I think about it.  Directed by David O. Russell, the film stars Bradley Cooper in an Oscar-worthy turn as Pat Solitano, a bipolar man who has just gotten out after an eight month stay at a mental hospital and is trying to realize his delusional dream of winning back his ex-wife, when he starts falling for the equally fragile Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence).  I shared my thoughts on the film during TIFF, and our reviews will be published next weekend.

I would like to wager the sort of bet that Pat’s father (Robert De Niro) would get behind in the film, and predict that Jennifer Lawrence will win Best Actress on Oscar night.  The 22-year-old scored an Academy Award nomination for her breakout work in Winter’s Bone in 2010, and set the box office on fire this March with her role as the already iconic Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.  In Silver Linings Playbook, she delivers a performance that is as entertaining as it is emotionally demanding, bringing to life a character who is shocking in her abruptness while still managing to be sexy, sometimes all in the same scene.  It’s an expertly handled performance that fully deserves to win, in a film that is quickly becoming the frontrunner for Best Picture.

But there are several things that need to fall into place for Silver Linings Playbook to remain the Oscar frontrunner, and one of them is the box office.  After opening the film in ten theatres over the weekend, The Weinstein Company recently axed their plans to open it in 2000 theatres on November 21st, bringing that number down to just 400 for the Thanksgiving long weekend.  As far as I’m concerned, the strategy actually makes a lot of sense.  If a film makes less money from more venues, then the per theatre average becomes less impressive.  But if a film makes a comparable amount of money in only a handful of markets, then the average per theatre works out to a much higher number which encourages more places to book screenings.  It’s the same strategy that the studio used to make success stories out the last two Best Picture winners, The King’s Speech and The Artist.

What’s more telling is the reason behind the decision.  The level of total awareness for a film generally has to be above fifty percent if it is going to hit the $10 million mark over Thanksgiving.  Audience awareness for Silver Linings Playbook was recently charted around thirty percent, which means there are more markets that need to be reached through strong word of mouth for it to ensure success at the box office.  I hope that regular audiences will take to the film in the same way that they did at the Toronto International Film Festival, and I truly believe that the presence of Jennifer Lawrence will be one of the keys to the success.  The fact that the critically derided horror movie House at the End of the Street even made any money at the box office back in September has everything to do with the fact that Jennifer Lawrence stars in the film.

It also seems like the marketing team has decided to advertise Silver Linings Playbook as a straight up romantic comedy, even though it offers something much deeper and more emotionally satisfying than the spoiler-filled trailers have let on and the classification of that genre would usually allow.  The excellent screenplay allows for ample moments of quirky humour and bittersweet romance, and both these things help make the film one of the most entertaining of the year.  But the way that it so perfectly balances these elements with emotional honesty and a sense of underlying heartache is what connected to me on such a deeply personal level and something that the marketing team has seemingly tried to ignore.

The box office is especially important for Silver Linings Playbook considering that the other Oscar contenders have been wildly successful.  Ben Affleck’s Argo and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln are both impeccably well crafted films that have proven to be critically acclaimed and commercially successful, with the added bonus of having political relevance and historical accuracy on their sides.  With Daniel Day-Lewis the Best Actor frontrunner for Lincoln and Argo a main player for Best Picture, both of these films will prove to be very appealing with the Academy.  Also opening this Wednesday is director Ang Lee’s much anticipated big screen adaptation of the beloved Canadian novel Life of Pi, and the film has already been drawing almost unanimous praise from early reviews.

The one thing that none of these other Best Picture frontrunners have is a contender for Best Actress, leaving that field wide open for the triumph of a well respected young actress like Jennifer Lawrence.  But the success that Silver Linings Playbook has on Oscar night could fully depend on whether or not people see the film, and whether or not audiences go to the theatre depends on the word of mouth that it receives over the coming weeks.  It’s one of the very best movies of the year and one that fully deserves to be a success story both at the box office and the Academy Awards.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: