It is estimated that in the awards season race up to the Academy Awards Ceremony, each Hollywood studios collectively spends $100million – $500million each year on Oscar campaigns, even though an Oscar statue only costs an estimated $500 to make (Follows, online article, 2015) (Kirkham, Online Article, 2015). Although these statues themselves only cost $500 to make, there is massive debate over what the real value of being nominated and even winning one is.
Studios spend money during their Oscar campaigns to try and get more publicity for their film than the other eligible films and ultimately get more votes than the other films in the running for a nomination or a win (McWalters, Online Article, 2013).Films can be nominated for an Oscar if they are eligible (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Website, 2015) and meet the requirement set by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, for example the film must have a theatrical release in a Los Angeles theatre (Atkinson, 2005, P13) for at least 7 consecutive days. These eligible films are added to the ‘Reminder List Of Eligible Releases’ where members of the Academy are able to see them.
There are over 6000 voting members of the Academy, each focusing on their own discipline and area of expertise in the film industry. For example, there are members that focus on editing and others that focus on hair and makeup (Dibin, Online Article, 2015). Voting members are sent a ballot in December with the eligible films on and are then able to votes for the films they want to be nominated for an Academy Award in the specific category of their expertise, this means that someone with an expertise in sound can vote for best sound design, however isn’t able to vote for the Best Cinematography nomination, although everyone, no matter their field of expertise, is able to vote for the Best Motion Picture Of The Year nomination (Hutchinson, Online Article, 2015).After the ballot has been counted, there is a ceremony in Beverly Hills in January where the Academy Award Nominations are announced.
After this the Voting Academy members are sent another ballot with all the nominated films in each category, and are then able to vote for any film in any category no matter their field of expertise. There are a number of ways that studios with films competing for the Oscar nomination will market their films, for example one technique is that the studios will release the films towards the end of the year, around the time that the nomination ballots are being filled in, to ensure that the films are fresh in the minds of the voters. They also commence elaborate and expensive adverting campaigns. These kind of marketing campaigns around award season have been the center of so many debates in the industry (Fox, Online Article, 2014) that The Academy has created guidelines to regulate these Oscar campaigns. These regulations are in place to ensure ‘voting members of the Academy make their choices based solely on the artistic and technical merits of the eligible films and achievements.’ (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Website, 2015)A large portion of the money spent on the campaign goes on advertising, for example to get an advert in The New York Times around the awards season is estimated to cost around $100k. The New York Times magazine is a highly sought after advertising space during awards season because a majority of the Academy Voters, are the target demographic for The New York Times, with the majority of Academy voters being middle class, middle aged males (Follows, online article, 2015). The studios also advertise their films anywhere and everywhere they can such as billboards, magazines, online, anywhere that Academy Voters are likely to see them.
The studios will also send screeners out to all the voters to make sure they have access to watch the films. These advertising campaigns are often crafted together by some of the best PR Consultants money can buy (Van Treuren, Online Article), who get a large cash bonus if the film receives a nomination or a win. An example is Stephanie Cutter (Brodesser-Akner, Online Article, 2013), Barack Obamas former deputy campaign manager, who was hired by Harvey Weinstein to head up the marketing campaign for David O. Russell’s Silver Lining Playbook, which consequently went on to win 1 Oscar and be nominated for 7 others. The Kings Speech is another example of a film produced by the Weinstein Company.
It went on to be nominated for 12 Oscars, winning 4 of them for Best Motion Picture of The Year, Best Performance For An Actor In A Leading Role, Best Achievement In Directing and Best Writing, Original Screenplay. Research suggests (Kalb, Online Article, 2013) that The Kings Speech was originally predicted to gross $30million worldwide when it was released. However after receiving its 12 Oscar nominations, it was then estimated to earn over $200million, which is over 6x the original prediction. This would suggest that being nominated for an Academy Award does in fact increase the profit of a film. After winning the Oscar for Best Motion Picture Of The Year as well as 3 other Oscars, It’s worldwide box office gross came in at over $414million. That is 14x the original estimate of the films box office gross. Another example of a film that surpassed its box office expectations after winning academy awards is Shakespeare In Love (Kiernan, Online Article), which was produced for a budget of $25million and after its Oscar success, including winning Best Picture went on to gross $289,317,794 (Box Office Mojo, Website) worldwide. This is also another example of the work of Harvey Weinstein, who was working with Miramax at the time.
With a film winning an Oscar or even being nominated, it is proven to bring in more ticket sales and get more people watching the film, even if a film covers a subject matter that people don’t enjoy. If it has the Oscar nod people are still likely to watch it. Gabriel Rossman, an associate professor at UCLA argues, “Audiences don’t like the kind of movies that get Oscars, but they do like the Oscars” 1 (Sullivan, Online Article, 2014). However, there are examples of films that haven’t succeeded at the box office, even after their Oscar success. For example Children Of Men, which was nominated for 3 Oscars, was produced for $76million but made a loss (Obias, Online Article, 2015), and currently has only made a gross of $69,959,751 worldwide. Edmund Helmer (Reed, Online Article, 2016) claims that the value of an Oscar win does not in fact outweigh the price of the studios campaigns, calculating that on average, a Best Film Oscar win only adds $3million to the films gross revenue.
Overall there is not a conclusive answer to whether the value of an Academy Award is worth the large amount of money that is spent on the elaborate Oscar campaigns, however Dominique Hanssens suggests that it is worth it for the studios because it reduces the risk of the film being a failure, because the Oscar brand is something that executives want their films to be associated with, having connotations of quality, and a huge draw for the audience “If a film receives an Oscar, it is almost a guarantee of a good experience” (Kiernan, Online Article).