Does critical and box office success really matter to win big at awards shows?

The Golden Globes kicked off this year’s awards season on 7th January, culminating with the much anticipated Academy Awards on the 24th February. As the very first awards show of the season, the Globes are known to set the tone for awards shows to come, and are often thought to sway Academy voters’ decisions at the last minute (the Golden Globes are handed out mere days before the nomination period for the Oscars closes).

As has been the case in recent years, the Golden Globes confounded some with their choice of winners, at times clashing with critics’ predictions and audience favourites. We took a closer look at the relationship between a film’s popularity at the box office, its critical reception and its success (or lack thereof) at the Globes.

Image credit: Freemavens analysis, Rafaela Camacho

Critical darlings don’t necessarily cash in at the box office

In fact, we observed a slight inverse correlation between the selected films’ Rotten Tomatoes ratings and their opening weekend box office figures. Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, received mixed reviews from critics, averaging at 62% on Rotten Tomatoes, and yet brought in over $50 in its opening weekend alone (USA).

The two highest rated films – ‘Roma’, produced by Netflix and directed by Academy Award winner Alfonso Cuarón, and ‘The Favourite’, Greek director Yorgos’ Lanthimos’ idiosyncratic period film – were hits among critics, but resonated with smaller audiences in their opening weekends. There is of course the caveat that, shortly after its cinematic release, Roma was released on Netflix, likely curtailing any future potential box offices profits.

The Globes don’t always see eye to eye with critics

Although the much-praised ‘Roma’ went two for two at the Globes, sweeping both Best Director and Foreign Language Picture, the night’s biggest winners received mixed reviews and have been at times shrouded in controversy. ‘Green Book’, a civil rights road-trip comedy-drama, has been said to embellish and misrepresent the real-life events on which it’s based. And ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which picked up arguably two of the night’s biggest awards (Best Drama and Lead Actor in a Drama) received plenty of negative publicity even before its theatrical release, after director Bryan Singer was fired halfway through shooting, following accusations of harassment.

The Globes’ disregard for critics may be its way of making a statement, looking to either recognise box offices hits (‘Bohemian Rhapsody’) or shed light on smaller, but crowd-pleasing, films and performances (‘Green Book’). Still, it seemed odd for the Globes voting body, the HFPA (Hollywood Foreign Press Association), not to echo both critics and audiences, and honour the widely popular ‘A Star is Born’, which left virtually empty-handed following its 5 nominations.

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That said, the select group of Los Angeles based foreign reporters that hand out the awards (the HFPA consists of just 90 journalists) are known to be at odds with the Academy, whose voting body spans around 6,000 industry professionals. Which means this year’s Oscar nominations and recipients could be (another) bag full of surprises.