That wasn't always the case for best picture nominees. "Titanic," the highest-grossing film of all time at $1.8 billion, won the award in 1998. "Schindler's List" had earned over $100 million when it won best picture in 1994. "Forrest Gump" was the top-grossing film of '94 and went on to win six Oscars, including best picture, the following year.
And in fact, nominating blockbusters has proved to be in the Academy's interest.
"When Titanic was nominated, the Oscars had their biggest audience ever," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media by Numbers, a box-office tracking and analysis firm. "People who had seen the movie were wrapped up in it, they wanted to follow it, they had a vested interest in seeing that film win."
With the writers strike wearing on, it's unclear what the Oscars will look like Feb. 24, let alone how many people will tune in to see them. But for 2008, the Academy might want to peek outside its ivory theater and see what the rest of America's watching.
"Are they still relevant? Yes. Are they as relevant as they were 30 years ago? Probably not," Smith said.