Just because "Slumdog Millionaire" is movie critics' favorite to win the Oscar doesn't mean it's as popular with mainstream America.
Want proof? Just look on eBay.
What movie buffs are buying on the popular auction site doesn't match what Hollywood is panting after.
“[EBay sales] are an indication of what regular movie fans put their money down for,” said Tom O’Neil, a columnist for the awards site TheEnvelope.com “It’s a people’s choice.”
If you're paying attention to the Best Picture race, "Slumdog" is the clear favorite, with "Benjamin Button" a distant contender. But on eBay, the film showing Brad Pitt aging backwards is blowing the rags-to-riches tale of a poor Indian boy who masters "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" out of the water.
Online auction-goers have snapped up a total of 491 "Button"-inspired mementos at an average price of $19.68, according to eBay.
The movie’s top-selling item, a Belstaff leather motorcycle jacket like one worn by Pitt in the film, went for $1,999.
By comparison, "Slumdog" is slumming it, with just 297 products connected to the feel-good flick sold.
The highest ticket item is a movie poster autographed by director Danny Boyle and costars Dev Patel and Freida Pinto that went for $304. Average price of “Slumdog” fare: $13.73.
“What it’s obviously reflecting is the box office numbers,” O’Neil said. “‘Benjamin Button’ is by far the box office best of the five. It’s no surprise. People are more than curious about ‘Button.’”
The eBay tallies also might support some movie watchers who say that Hollywood is out of touch with mainstream America.
“It’s interesting how the Academy votes and how the audience ‘votes.’ It can be totally different,” said eBay's pop culture expert Karen Bard. "It's a testament to what people are really interested in and what they're watching right now."
Awards prognosticators say the Oscar best actor race is a toss-up between Mickey Rourke for “The Wrestler,” about Randy “The Ram” Robinson, and Sean Penn for “Milk.” Penn is the favorite by a slim margin for playing San Francisco’s first openly gay elected official, Harvey Milk.
But on eBay, Pitt is way ahead for “Button,” with 4,504 products auctioned off to Penn’s 1,382 and Rourke’s 880. The results are based on searches of the actors’ names with the titles of the movies they’re nominated for, according to eBay.
Pitt groupies could buy everything from a Damiani gold-and-diamond necklace he designed that went for $1,615 to a dollar bill with his face on it with a starting bid of $3.99.
Penn does have his following on eBay. Fans are selling and buying items like a Harvey Milk photo signed by the actor for $300, an autographed copy of the movie script starting at $16.95 and, oddly, a design services agreement he had with ex-wife Madonna (cost: $99).
Pitt’s off-screen leading lady, Angelina Jolie, is the choice for best actress for “The Changeling” — on eBay.
Among the 4,590 movie-related souvenirs auctioned, the most expensive was a shirt Jolie wore in the film about a mother searching for her missing child. It sold for $2,000.
The Academy is having none of it. The real Oscar horse race in Hollywood is between Kate Winslet as a Nazi who had an affair with a teenager in “The Reader” and Meryl Streep as a sharp-tongued nun in “Doubt."
Both have fared fine on eBay: Streep is in second place after Jolie, but still ahead of Winslet.
But neither they nor the best actor frontrunners can compete with the blinding star power of Brangelina.
There is one role Hollywood and eBay buyers can agree on: Heath Ledger as The Joker in “Batman: The Dark Knight.”
Few are expecting an upset for the late actor at the Oscars. And fans trolling eBay are all about his performance as a clown-faced psychopathic killer, buying 5,707 props at an average price of about $20. One affordable little knick-knack is a Ledger as The Joker bobble head for $10.99.
EBay’s Oscar stats could be inflated in some cases by DVD sales for the films that already have them out, and by the actual number of collectibles that exist for each movie, said O’Neil.
“There are a lot more ‘Benjamin Button’ items out there,” he said.
It’s unlikely that eBay sales will end up predicting who gets Oscars this weekend. Last year, the upbeat teen pregnancy tale “Juno” was eBay’s best pic pick, while the actual winner about a serial killer’s bloody trek, “No Country for Old Men,” came in fourth.
The company stops short of venturing any guesses.But maybe they’re onto something.
“We don’t know how the Academy Awards are going to turn out,” Bard said. “But it’s a really good indicator of what people want to have a piece of. It goes beyond just buying a ticket to a film. It’s owning a part of these films.”