‘Oppenheimer’ expected to win big at Oscars after $954 million haul at theaters, with Christopher Nolan leading contender for best director

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Oppenheimer, the biographical film about the inventor of the atomic bomb, is the clear favorite going into this year’s Academy Awards ceremony.

The three-hour film from Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures leads the nominations with 13. It’s expected to win in several categories, including best picture, cinematography and score, according to the website GoldDerby, which tracks predictions from critics and other experts.

On the betting site FanDuel, Oppenheimer is such a favorite for best picture that gamblers would need to put up $5,000 just to win $100. Other contenders include Poor Things, from Walt Disney Co.’s Searchlight Pictures, and The Zone of Interest, from the independent studio A24.

“I don’t think that there’ll be an upset, not because the other movies aren’t great, but because none of the other movies feel like they’ve captured the consensus vote as an alternative,” said Michael Schulman, the author of Oscar Wars: A History of Hollywood in Gold, Sweat and Tears.

Christopher Nolan is the leading contender for best director, while actors Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr. are favored for their portrayals of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and his nemesis Lewis Strauss.

In Nolan, the industry is rallying behind a director who’s been a champion of showing movies in theaters and shooting them on film, rather than digitally. He’s been nominated three times before, for directing and best original screenplay, but never won an Oscar.

Oppenheimer, a period piece that has grossed $954 million in theaters, harkens back to an era when big Hollywood productions took home the industry’s top awards, and not the smaller budget, art-house films that have dominated more recently. The picture has already picked up multiple trophies leading up to Sunday’s ceremony, including best drama at the Golden Globes and best film from the Producers Guild of America and the British film academy.

It’s potentially one of the biggest Oscar sweeps since 2003’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King took home 11 trophies. Last year, A24’s Everything Everywhere All at Once was nominated 11 times and won seven.

Read More: A24’s Risky Private Equity-Fueled Hollywood Gambit

The program, hosted this year by late night star Jimmy Kimmel, begins at 4 p.m. local time in Los Angeles. It airs on Disney’s ABC network.

The nominations pit two of last year’s highest-grossing films against each other. Barbie, the biggest box office draw in 2023, is also a contender for best picture, but the Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. film is favored to win only for costume design and best song, according to GoldDerby, underscoring the challenges comedies have in scoring the industry’s top prizes.

The two films were released on the same day last July, sparking a social media frenzy known as “Barbenheimer” that prompted many fans to watch them back-to-back in theaters.

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