Without Star Power Or Blockbuster Nominees, Oscars Interest At An All-Time Low

Written By Jessica Welman on March 30, 2021Last Updated on May 5, 2022
Oscars 2021

Normally I wake up early on the day of Academy Award nominations like a child on Christmas morning. With legal betting on the Oscars in New Jersey the past two years, it has been even more fun. As a lifelong movie fan, a University of Southern California film school graduate, and a writer and editor in the sports betting industry, it is the perfect intersection of my interests.

Except this year, I don’t think I will be betting much, if at all.

The pandemic impacted every industry, but the film industry arguably took a harder hit than most. Movie theaters are still struggling to get by. Studios that put hundreds of millions of dollars into big blockbusters are sitting on them until things reopen.

The result for movie awards season is a strange amalgamation of small independent films and Netflix releases. The acting nominations are stacked with newcomers. None of the Best Picture nominees grossed more than $6 million. The public interest in the awards is the lowest it has been in decades.

DraftKings Sportsbook has odds on every 2021 Oscars category

DraftKings Sportsbook’s Johnny Avello put out betting lines on this year’s Oscars, but so far other books have not followed suit. It is understandable that bookmakers besides Avello, a movie aficionado, decided to skip out this year.

With the delayed ceremony on April 26, the lead-up to the ceremony overlaps with big betting events like March Madness and The Masters. As mentioned, with no big blockbusters like Black Panther or Bohemian Rhapsody to drive betting, there is little public interest in these already niche markets.

Finally, there is the simple fact that the disruption in the awards season makes predicting these awards much more difficult than usual. I’ve written at length in the past about betting trends and movie awards. Normally the Golden Globes, the Writers Guild of America awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG), and various critics ceremonies help determine frontrunners. In addition to the clout of winning an award, the ceremony itself provided nominees a chance to meet voters and stump for their movies.

This year, the hobnobbing isn’t happening save for some Zoom interactions. This lack of physical interaction is having a demonstrable impact on the awards. Take the Golden Globes, which opted to award longtime stars Rosamund Pike and Jodie Foster for roles that did not garner any other major nomination.

Though there are plenty of new faces in the acting field, the big names will likely prevail simply because more people know them. The late Chadwick Boseman seems like a near-lock for Best Actor for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. He is currently listed at -2,000. Past nominee Daniel Kaluuya is a heavy favorite for Best Supporting Actor as well.

The actress categories are murkier. It does seem like Carey Mulligan is the current frontrunner for Best Actress. The only category with a potential fresh face claiming the trophy is Best Supporting Actress, where YounYuh-jung of Minari is trending up at just the right time. Of course, there is also the chance that voters give a consolation Oscar to Glenn Close after snubbing her in favor of Olivia Colman for Best Actress two years ago. Or, heck, maybe Colman, who is nominated in this category as well, pulls out the upset.

Long story short: The acting categories are a mix of two heavy favorites and two toss-ups, neither of which seem ideal to bet on.

Best Picture Oscars odds 2021

Here is a look at the current odds for Best Picture at DraftKings Sportsbook (Last updated March 30):

Nomadland: -400
The Trial of the Chicago 7: +650
Promising Young Woman: +1,000
Minari: +1,200
Judas and the Black Messiah: +2,000
Mank: +2,000
Sound of Metal: +5,000
The Father: +8,000

When it comes to Best Picture, Nomadland has the credentials that typically result in an Oscars victory. The film won Best Drama at the Golden Globes and the Producers Guild of America trophy. It didn’t pick up a Writers Guild win and doesn’t have much presence at this weekend’s Screen Actors Guild Awards since it is mostly a one-woman show for Frances McDormand. Director Chloe Zhao did secure a Directors Guild of America nomination. Those awards take place April 10.

If there is a film to upset Nomadland, it might just be Minari, which is the kind of film that likely ranks high on most preferential Best Picture ballots. The ensemble cast could easily claim the SAG Award for Best Ensemble. Actors are the biggest branch of the Academy and every member votes for Best Picture. Recall too that, last year, Parasite won the SAG for Best Ensemble shortly before claiming Best Picture.

The end result could also be a Picture/Director split with Nomadland and Minari each taking home one category.

Some very tentative 2021 Oscar betting tips

One thing I have taken to doing with my Oscars betting each year is to ask myself which one award each Best Picture nominee has the best chance of winning. Academy voters have really taken to spreading the love around in recent years instead of the days where Titanic or Lord of the Rings racked up double-digit victories.

Two years ago, every nominee for Best Picture won at least one award. Last year, The Irishman was the only film to go home empty-handed. With that in mind, here are my predictions for which award/s each film could win:

Nomadland: Director, Cinematography, Adapted Screenplay
The Trial of the Chicago 7: Original Screenplay, Editing
Promising Young Woman: Actress, Original Screenplay
Minari: Supporting Actress, Director
Judas and the Black Messiah: Supporting Actor
Mank: Cinematography, Production Design
Sound of Metal: Sound, Editing
The Father: Adapted Screenplay

To reiterate, I doubt I bet on this year’s awards. Either the writing on the wall for a category is crystal clear or just about anything could happen. It’ll make for a night of surprises for Oscar viewers, but not a night for making a profit betting on the ceremony.

Photo by AP/John Locher
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Jessica Welman

A graduate of USC and Indiana University, Jessica Welman has long been involved in the poker industry and online gambling. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and as the managing editor for WSOP.com.

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