The Average Oscar Campaign Costs $10 Million, And Other Oscar Facts

Nominations for the 87th Academy Awards are set to be announced tomorrow, and with the Oscars on everyone’s minds (citation needed), Stephen Follows has written a lengthy breakdown of Oscar factoids over on his blog. As always, I’m not exactly sure how he came to some of these facts but I’m going to share and blindly believe them anyway, because what am I, Nate Silver? The graphs look pretty. Anyway, it’s not the polio vaccine.

A small taste of his summary:

  • Oscar voters are 94% white,  77% male and have a median age of 62.
  • 56% of ‘Best Picture’ nominees were released in either November or December.
  • The cost of a ‘Best Picture’ winning Oscar campaign is around $10 million
  • Half of all the money spent on Oscar campaigns will go to advertising
  • A page 1 advert in The Hollywood Reporter during Oscar season costs $72,000.
  • Crash (2005) spent $250,000 on DVD screeners
  • PR consultants are paid $10k-$15k, plus bonuses of $20k per nomination / win.
  • It costs around $3,500 to prepare a Hollywood actress for the red carpet
  • Oscar nominated films earn average of $12.7m more than films not nominated
  • A ‘Best Picture’ Oscar win is worth $3 million in increased box office gross
  • A Golden Globe win is worth $14.2 million
  • The non-financial benefits to studios of an Oscar ‘Best Picture’ are worth $7m
  • Best Actor winners can expect a $3.9m salary increase
  • It’s just $500k for Best Actress winners
  • It is possible to predict the Oscar winners with a success rate of 77% for Picture, 93% for Director, 77% for Actor, and 77% for Actress

Some of the factoids in particular that jumped out at me:

A ‘Best Picture’ Oscar win is worth $3 million in increased box office gross; A Golden Globe win is worth $14.2 million

That seemed insane, and at first I wondered if the Golden Globes’ propensity to nominate anything Johnny Depp happened to have made that year might just make it seem like a Golden Globe had a higher correlation with box office. But it turns out, the analysis Follows cites was much more in depth than that:

The cause isn’t certain, but there are two possibilities. The first is simply that, because Golden Globes occur earlier in the lifetime of the films they award, the impact of a Globe award is magnified. The second is that Golden Globes are in fact trial runs for the Oscar race, and films that get a nod in these trials end up getting massive free press as potential Oscar contenders. Both seem likely as contributing factors and are worth examining further.

The other part that threw me off was:

The non-financial benefits to studios of an Oscar ‘Best Picture’ are worth $7m

I re-read that six times until half my face went numb, so I scrolled down to see if he’d elaborated on his methodology:

So when you compare his ‘value’ of $3 million for [an Oscar] win with the average cost of $10 million for the campaign, there doesn’t seem to be a clear financial reason for Oscar campaigns. So while it may not make pure economic sense to campaign hard for an Oscar there are clearly other benefits, including Hollywood politics, bragging rights and brand image.  Using the numbers above, we can value this ‘image’ enhancement at around $7 million per ‘Best Picture’ win. [source]

Basically, he’s inferring that because studios lose an average of $7 million on Oscar campaigns, they must know this, ergo, whatever money they lose is, de facto, worth that much in “non-financial benefits.” I actually love this methodology. It’s the most clean and rad and powerful budgeting strategy yet devised.

“Honey, did you just spend $150 on whiskey?!”

“Well yeah, but relax: it’s going to be worth at least that much in non-financial benefits.”

(*drinks half the bottle, does donuts on the front lawn on a razor scooter while wearing half a watermelon for a helmet*)

Some things you just can’t put a price on. Until you already have.