Can Release Date Trends Predict the 2020 Oscar and Golden Globe Winners?

Recency bias: it’s a real phenomenon that pervades everything from investing to elections to sports betting and, yes, even film awards. 

As we enter winter, we also enter a time of the year known as “film awards season.” It’s a term which is so well-defined by this point that it even has its own Wikipedia entry. January and February play host to, not just the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, but also the SAG Awards, Directors Guild of America Awards, BAFTAs, and many, many others. 

The crowding of awards shows in January/February, coupled with the very real existence of recency bias, has led to an inevitable reaction from movie studios: they tend to save their, let’s call them “Oscar bait” films, for later in the calendar. 

According to The Ringer, from 2002 to 2017, all but two Best Picture winners were released in October or later. The outliers were Crash in 2006 (released in May) and The Hurt Locker in 2010 (released in June). 

The 2018 and 2019 ceremonies continued that trend: The Shape of Water was widely released on Dec. 1, 2017, while Green Book hit US theaters on Nov. 21, 2018. 

The trend is almost as pronounced at the Golden Globes, which of course honors both a Best Drama and a Best Musical/Comedy each year. At the last eight Golden Globes, only two of 16 winners in the two biggest categories have been released earlier than October (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Best Musical/Comedy, 2014-15; Boyhood, Best Drama, 2014-15).

The Early Odds Are Somewhat Askew

For decades, Oscar pools have been a mainstay of a certain Sunday night in February, with partygoers doing their best to out-prognosticate their friends and family. More recently, betting on the Academy Awards and Golden Globes has become big business. 

As far back as spring 2019, some sites were offering prop wagers on which film would win Best Picture at the 2020 Oscars. They were also quick to post Golden Globe odds on Best Drama, Best Musical/Comedy, and Best Director after the nominees were announced a couple weeks ago.

The early favorites for Best Drama and Best Musical/Comedy at the Globes are The Irishman (-170 odds) and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (-200), respectively. 

The Irishman fits the mold of an Oscar/GG-winner in that it was released in early November. (Also, it’s directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Robert De Niro, which isn’t going to hurt its chances.) 

Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time, however, does not fit the mold. It was released in July and has, as a result, ebbed from the public conscious in the ensuing months, or so the voting trends would indicate. 

Sascha Paruk, the lead oddsmaker at Sportsbettingdime.com, notes that Once Upon a Time was also favored to win Best Picture at the 2020 Oscars back in September. However, it has since been overtaken by The Irishman and Parasite (a South Korean film that is not eligible for a GG).  

Stay Tuned

The 2020 Golden Globes take place on Jan. 5, at 8:00 PM ET and will be hosted by Ricky Gervais for the fifth time. They will be followed by the Academy Awards on Feb. 9 at 6:30 PM ET. Like last year, the 2020 Oscars are unlikely to have one main emcee. 

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