2013 Oscar Nominees: What ‘12 Years a Slave’ Means to Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.

Nominated for nine Oscars, this historical drama has already earned a tidy sum for the Searchlight imprint of studio distributor Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.

Mar 2, 2014 at 4:00AM

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Chiwetel Ejiofor is one of several up for acting honors in 12 Years a Slave. Sources: Facebook, Fox Searchlight.

Oscar favorite 12 Years a Slave, like several Best Picture nominees before it, boasts an impressive financial profile. Fool contributor Tim Beyers explains in the following video.

Based on the real-life memoir of a black man born free and then forced into slavery, 12 Years a Slave stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup and is up for 9 Oscars in the following categories:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director (Steve McQueen)
  • Best Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor)
  • Best Supporting Actor (Michael Fassbender)
  • Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong'o)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay (John Ridley)
  • Best Achievement in Editing
  • Best Achievement in Art Direction
  • Best Achievement in Costume Design

Online betting sites say the film is the favorite to win Best Picture. If they're right, it would be a boon for studio Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA). Last year's winner, Argo, went on to add another 4.7% to its domestic gross -- and that's despite a mid-October 2012 general release for the film. All told, Argo grossed $232.3 million worldwide for studio distributor Time Warner (NYSE:TWX).

Fox hasn't been as financially fortunate with 12 Years a Slave. Yet that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you consider that the film cost just $20 million to make -- less than half of what Warner spent on Argo -- while earning $49.3 at the U.S. box office. Nearly 21% of that came after the Academy named 12 Years a Slave to its "Best Picture" list, Box Office Mojo reports.

Worldwide, 12 Years a Slave has earned $128.2 million as of this writing. Taking half that to account for theater operators' cut of the gross puts Fox's share at $64.1 million. Add $20 million in marketing and distribution to Fox's $20 million production budget and Tim says you're still left with a solidly profitable Oscar contender that, like Argo, could enjoy an extended stay in theaters.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. How do you rate 12 Years a Slave's chances at the Oscars? Did you see the film? Please watch the video to get Tim's full take and then leave a comment to let us know where you stand, and whether you would buy, sell, or short Fox stock at current prices.

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Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Time Warner at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

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