The box office gods were not kind to Rob Marshall's "Nine" over the weekend. 

After expanding from four to 1,412 theaters, the movie musical grossed only $5.4 million with an incredibly disappointing $3,862 average.  If The Weinstein Company and Relativity Media production had been a low budget indie along the lines of "The Hurt Locker," "A Single Man" or "Crazy Heart" this wouldn't be that big a concern. However, "Nine" cost $65 million after tax credits (or so both companies say, other reports have it anywhere from $80-85 million) and a road to profitability for the high profile movie seems incredibly difficult at this point.  And if Oscar avoids anything, it's high-profile, Oscar bait bombs.  This is not about celebrating red ink people.

Like most movie musicals, "Nine's" biggest day was Friday ($2 million) and it dropped every day following (that's not a good sign).  The Weinstein Company is well aware that "Nine" didn't expand as hoped and told the LA Times the film will be pulled from smaller cities in the midwest where it performed poorly.  Instead, they will take their chances on the big cities and hope further awards recognition will help fuel the box office. That's akin to making a big hell mary pass in the fourth quarter with your receiver on the other side of the field.  "Nine" was savaged by critics including two damning reviews from the papers of record, the New York and Los Angeles Times, and overall national response hasn't been any kinder.  If Oscar was still operating under its old five-picture system "Nine" would have already gotten the Heidi Klum "You're out" speech.  Instead, it stands perilously on the edge of not making the inaugural ten nominees.  That's a big fall from being the frontrunner way back in September and August.  Well, except for those of us who'd heard the horror stories of bad test screenings and continuous re-edits.

In any event, with Academy members ranking their top ten nominees the question becomes what film could get enough support to knock it out?  It's not enough for "Nine" to be kicked out, support has to go somewhere else.  To figure out how that scenario could play out, let's take a quick look at the overall field.

Locks:

"Avatar"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Up in the AIr"
"Precious"
"Inglourious Basterds"

Should get in:
"Up"
"Invictus"

To be fair, there really are three slots in play after "Nine" has faltered as a true contender. 

Your candidates:
"An Education"
It should get in based on the SAG ensemble nomination, but negative campaigning hasn't helped.  It's gonna be close.

"Nine"
Would be more of a shock if it made the ten than didn't at this point.  And if the box office really falters over the next few weeks, its pretty much over.

"The Blind Side"
A monster hit, but is it too schmaltzy for the Academy (and yes, I did just type that)? Beyond Bullock's charismatic performance the membership might not think there's that much there.

"The Last Station"
Could be the screener surprise #1.  Something suggests the humor in the drama will play better on the small screen for members.

"District 9"
Critically acclaimed blockbuster, but has Sony Pictures campaigned it correctly?  Their ads are not inspired and it all feels a bit half-hearted, like even they don't believe.  They should.

"Michael Jackson's This Is It"
Prognosticators like Pete Hammond believe and the fact it's is the highest grossing concert documentary of all time will help, but hearing it listed among the top ten would still be a shocker.

"Crazy Heart"
Could be screener surprise #2.  It's not doing OK in theaters in limited release, but it's the sort of title the membership will definitely catch over the holidays.  Will that help or hurt?

"The Messenger"
Enough actors saw it for Woody Harrelson to get a SAG nod, have enough of the general Academy members popped the screener in too?  Could be screener surprise #3.

"It's Complicated"
Had a strong opening at the box office for a Nancy Myers film and could defeat "Nine" for the Golden Globe for Best Picture Comedy or Musical.  With ten slots at play, the older-skewing comedy could really benefit from a last minute push.

"A Serious Man"
Long thought of as a shoo-in and the limited box office hasn't helped, but the critic's darling still has its fans.

Looking at the rest of the contenders, it's starting to seem implausible for "Nine" to still make it.  Sure, it's going to make more money than other semi-wide releases "An Education," "The Hurt Locker" and "A Serious Man," but perception is everything.  Those films have a lot more going for them than "Nine"...at the moment. 

Then again, last year Harvey Weinstein pulled a rabbit out of his hat by landing a Best Picture nod for "The Reader" when everyone thought that film's chances were dead and gone.  Can he do the same for "Nine" this time around?  Or, does he focus his energy on driving "Basterds" to an upset to win it all?  We'd recommend the latter, but something tells us Harvey ain't playing that card...yet.

Did "Nine" hit your hometown?  If you saw it, what did you think? And if you didn't go, what made you skip it?  Share your thoughts below.