Predicting the Oscar nominations is not an exact science, not least because the arcane voting system tends to throw up left-field candidates.
The window of opportunity for distributors to cash in on a nomination is also very limited. But over the years, it has been possible to see a big picture. What it suggests is that the only category that is truly bankable at the box office in the longer term is the Oscars' top prize - best picture.
A study I carried out in 1991, when Kevin Costner's Dances With Wolves won best picture, looked at the best-picture winners and their subsequent commercial fortunes. It concluded that, in the short term (18 months), a best-picture winner could expect to generate at minimum an additional $100m in revenues from all sources, which then included theatrical, TV and VHS. Seasonal re-broadcasts and special editions on DVD afforded a hefty annuity to the rights owner over a longer period of time.
It is likely that with the wider range of platforms now available and the broader international markets, those figures could now realistically translate into $150-$200m.
Domestically, the reality for the remaining 80% of best-picture nominees is an extremely short window to mount campaigns positioning the film as a contender that ought to be seen prior to the Oscar broadcast (in whatever form it might take in light of the current writers' strike that put the kibosh on this year's Golden Globes).
There's also some box-office traction to be gained for pictures with nominations in leading performer categories. Again, though, this is only during the period leading up to the awards show, assuming it is already in theatres.
However, this year's slate of best-picture nominees holds out the promise of better-than-average commercial prospects internationally, given the number of territories still to open. The exception is Michael Clayton: though Warner Bros is mounting a reissue in the US, conventional wisdom has shown the practice is rarely effective. Internationally, the film has grossed $32m, with Germany and Japan the only major territories left to open.
Among the other nominees, only Juno is within striking distance of a $100m domestic gross. Last weekend it debuted in Australia with a three-day gross of $1,673,695. The Oscar glow looks certain to boost its appeal internationally.
Most US critics groups have cited either No Country For Old Men or There Will Be Blood as the best film of 2007. The former is pretty much played out in theatres domestically, taking more than $50m, and this past weekend it bowed in the UK and entered its third week in Australia. After last weekend, it had taken $2,468,402 internationally.
There Will Be Blood has yet to open a single territory though both pictures are now primed to open major markets in the next month.
Atonement debuted in the UK in July and its $23.5m gross accounts for roughly half its foreign box office. It appears to be the best-positioned film to exploit the Academy attention with debuts in Brazil, Russia, France and Portugal in the past week and most of Asia and Mexico by early February.
In the US, it gambled on the Oscar spotlight and in a normal year would have benefited from winning at the Golden Globes. Still, it has effectively worked a slow expansion in US and won't go into wide release for another week.