How many people actually the best movie of 2011?

I’m stunned. I just read today that the Oscar they hand to the winners at the Academy Awards is just a prop the winners then exchange for the real thing backstage.

It’s almost as if the whole thing was just a show.

That is the easy part to forget, that the Oscars – which are Sunday night – are a show, so suspense and what we might call relatability are important. The only suspense might be whether “The Artist” or “The Descendants” wins best picture, but the smart money says “The Artist” has it in the bag. That’s OK. It’s a sweet, funny, touching movie, and the critics loved it, which is usually the kiss of death.

Oh, and no one saw it.

Hollywood math is always dicey, but figures on total receipts for 2011 from outline things reasonably well. Of of the nine best-picture nominees, only “The Help” was a real hit, bringing in $169.5 million, 11th highest of the year. The top three, by the way, were “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II” ($381 million), “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” ($352.4 million) and “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1,” ($276.1 million).

The second-highest grossing best-picture nominee was “Moneyball” at No. 44, with $75 million, though it should be noted that “War Horse” (No. 74, $44.1 million) didn’t open until Christmas Day, is still in theaters and will likely pass “Moneyball.” Dropping back a bit, we come to No. 47 “Midnight in Paris” and No. 66 “Hugo,” both best-picture nominees. Those are in the range of nice but non-hit movies such as No. 42 “Tower Heist” and the gritty, enjoyable but not-much-of-a-hit No. 56 “The Lincoln Lawyer.” We’re well into the zone called “forgettable.”

My favorite for best picture, “The Descendants,” comes in at No. 79, with $40.3 million, though it’s still in theaters, and it’s Oscar love is probably helping some.

Then let’s go to No. 168, with $5 million, which in Hollywood might as well be three books of Green Stamps. That would be “The Artist.” It’s in black and white. It’s silent. People stayed away. Too bad, because they’re missing a fine movie, one of the two or three best in a weak year.

That’s relatibility. Will people tune in Sunday night to see a movie they ignored win for best picture, best director and, plausibly, best actor and best supporting actress? History says no. Again, they’re missing a good show.