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Oscars' 9 Best Pictures Are Extras In a World of Box Office Heroes

PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- Marvel and D.C. Comics can put as many of its superheroes on screen as they'd like. All their might combined won't move the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to nominate their films for Best Picture.

The Avengers and Batman made off with everybody's movie money this year, but you'd have to dig down to the 14th most-popular film of 2012 ( Lincoln) to find a Best Picture nominee.

That shouldn't surprise anyone who's watched the Academy Awards in recent years or noted the disparity between its nominees and those at the top of the box office earning list -- or on the guest list at the People's Choice Awards. Since the Oscars were first handed out in 1929, the most popular movie in the country has won Best Picture just 18 times. In the past 40 years, the only box office champions to break through to the Academy voters were The Godfather (1972), Rocky (1974), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Rain Man (1988), Forrest Gump (1994), Titanic (1997) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). That's right, it's been almost a full decade since the last time it happened, and the gap hasn't closed much since.

Statistician William Briggs checked box office receipts and found that, since 1940, 15 Best Picture winners made 25% or less of the haul of that year's highest-grossing pictures. It's happened five times in the past decade: Shrek 2's $441 million overshadowed Million Dollar Baby's $100 million in 2004, the final Star Wars installment's $380 million dwarfed Crash's $54 million in 2005, Spider-Man 3 trounced No Country For Old Men by $336 million to $74 million, while the record $750 million raked in by 3-D spectacle Avatar in 2009 more than quadrupled The Hurt Locker's $17 million take in its opening weekend alone. In 2011, the $381 million made by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 blew away the scant $44 million made by black-and-white, silent Best Picture winner The Artist.

Just to provide some idea of how far this year's list of Best Picture nominees drifts from box office reality, we've listed the Top 9 highest-grossing films of last year and matched them up with their corresponding Best Picture nominee. Just to give you some idea of how different the ends of the spectrum are, the top-grossing film's take was 156 times that of the lowest-grossing Best Picture nominee. Grab your popcorn, sit back and watch the cultural divide deepen:

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