Black Panther In The Oscars Conversation Shows Trend Toward Movies People Have Actually Seen

Good news for anyone who watches the 2019 Oscars: There's a solid chance you will have actually seen many of the Best Picture nominees. The Academy Award nominations won't be announced until January 22, but it already looks like several blockbusters may make the Best Picture cut -- including the top-grossing movie of 2018 at the North American box office, Black Panther. That's good news to folks like Phil Contrino, director of research for the National Association of Theatre Owners, who had this to say:

To see a movie like Black Panther in the conversation is very reassuring. It shows that the Oscars are more in tune with what the paying public is responding to.

The Oscars does not often play that tune, as analysts noted to Fortune. Even with the Academy now nominating up to 10 titles a year for Best Picture, a perennial complaint from mainstream viewers is I Haven't Even Heard Of Most Of These Movies.

Even if a few mainstream hits make the nominee cut, the winner is usually a non-blockbuster -- like The Shape of Water last year, Moonlight the year before, and Spotlight the year before that. In 2011, black-and-white silent film The Artist took the win, despite only making a total of $44 million at the domestic box office.

However! The year we just left behind was truly a special one. Not only did the box office hit an all-time record $11.82 billion, a lot of that money was made by blockbusters of high quality. Many of those high-grossing films are expected to compete against each other at the 91st Academy Awards.

Marvel's Black Panther -- which has made $1.3 billion worldwide -- is poised to be the first superhero film to be nominated for Oscar's Best Picture. It could launch a trend that continues into 2019 and beyond, especially since the Academy tabled that idea for a "Popular Film" Oscar category.

If you head over to GoldDerby, they are already deep into Best Picture predictions, with high odds going to A Star Is Born, another mainstream hit which has earned $389 million worldwide to date. Not only is A Star Is Born expected to nab a Best Picture nomination, it's also eyed for Best Director and Best Actor nods for Bradley Cooper, Best Actress for Lady Gaga, probably a song win for both, and potentially more.

Black Panther is also on GoldDerby's nomination list, along with -- a bit further down -- other blockbusters like Mary Poppins Returns ($175M so far, but it just opened) and Bohemian Rhapsody ($702.5M worldwide so far). Rami Malek is pretty much a lock for a Best Actor nomination, and we'll have to see if he can seal the deal with a win.

Sure, the Best Picture nominee list will almost certainly also include indie darlings like Roma -- which should be earning new fans through Netflix, but we don't know how many -- plus The Favourite and If Beale Street Could Talk. Green Book, BlacKkKlansman, Vice, and First Man are also on the potential nominee list, despite non-blockbuster numbers.

The 2018-2019 nominee list should be a fascinating mix of blockbusters and indies, which is ... how it should always be? It depends on any year's crop of films, of course, but if the Oscars wants to survive in a world where fewer people are watching awards shows, it would help to keep including films people not only watched but also enjoyed.

Moving forward, it looks like 2019 has a very healthy lineup of potential blockbusters that also have the potential to be genuinely great films. Will we see some of them on the 2019-2020 Oscars nomination list? Time will tell. Check out some of CinemaBlend's picks for the best films of 2018, and the full 2019 schedule ahead.

The 91st Academy Award nominations will be announced Tuesday, January 22. The awards ceremony will air live on Sunday, February 24, at 5:00 PM PST on ABC. There's no host yet, as of this writing, after losing Kevin Hart.

Gina Carbone

Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.