How Much Is an Oscar Worth?


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This year's Oscar-winning movies will generate big bucks at the box office. But how much is winning an Oscar worth to individual winners? Here's how past nominees have capitalized on Hollywood's biggest award.

Every year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hands out Oscars, 13-inch statues made of gold-plated pewter and worth about $500. As with most awards, however, the value isn’t in the trophy. The win – even the nomination – is often worth millions.

Movie studios know there’s more than pride at stake: Harvey and Bob Weinstein, executive producers of 2011’s Best Picture winner “The King’s Speech,” are said to have spent millions promoting the film specifically hoping for nominations.

As we wait for this year’s winners to be crowned, here’s more on how much an Oscar can be worth for actors, actresses, and films.

Oscar wins boost box office sales

Oscar winners often aren’t the highly-anticipated, big-budget summer blockbusters. According to industry research by IBISWorld, Best Picture winners are often films with lower budgets. Production costs for Best Picture winners for 2007-2011 averaged only $17 million. But including post-nomination revenue, they returned nearly five times their budget – $82.5 million.  More than half the box office was earned after the nomination, with an average of 21.7 percent of total revenue coming after winning the Oscar.

The King’s Speech, the 2011 winner for Best Picture, turned in some eye-popping numbers. According to Box Office Mojo, the film earned more than $414 million worldwide, almost 28 times its estimated $15 million budget. About $74 million of its $135 million total domestic box office came in the weeks after its nomination on Jan. 25, 2011.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, either. A 2001 study that compared 131 nominated films to 131 that weren’t nominated concluded that Best Picture Oscar winners averaged $12.7 million more revenue.

According to CNBC, another film with a big “Oscar bump” was “The Last Emperor.” The 1987 winner earned 73 percent of its total box office  after its wide release, which occurred four days after the Academy Awards were presented.

Larger paydays for actors and actresses

Oscar wins don’t just mean more money for the film. Actors and actresses benefit from Oscar wins as well.

Some actors take pay cuts to star in films with a shot at winning an Oscar. According to this article from AOL, Hollywood agents say Best Actor or Actress winners can expect a 20 percent pay hike with their next film. Of course, many have gone on to make much more.

According to IMDB.com, Halle Berry earned just $600,000 in her 2001 Best Actress performance in “Monster’s Ball.” After the win, she reportedly went on to make $6 million and $14 million, respectively, for the films “Gothika” and “Catwoman.”

Nicolas Cage reportedly saw a huge increase in his per-film pay post-Oscar. According to IMDB.com, he earned a meager $240,000 for his role in “Leaving Las Vegas,” which netted him a Best Actor win. Cage reportedly earned $20 million each for subsequent films “Gone in Sixty Seconds,” “Windtalkers,” and “National Treasure.”

Some actors agree to a smaller upfront fee in exchange for a share of profits, and make out handsomely after a win. According to The New York Times, Sandra Bullock took half of her normal $10 million fee for her role in “The Blind Side,” but ended up making more than $20 million overall, thanks to the movie’s $309 million earnings, which may have been boosted by her Best Actress win.

George Clooney may have taken a similar deal for “Up in the Air,” and likely earned millions more after his Oscar nomination and the movie’s widespread popularity.

Is a nomination alone enough?

What about the nominees who don’t win? That’s still worth something too. Of the nominees from 2007-2011, IBISWorld reported a little less than one-quarter of their box-office revenue came in after their nomination was announced. The study mentioned above reporting a Best Picture win was worth $12.7 million said nominees saw a boost of about $4.8 million. Another study claims it’s actually the nomination that leads to the big bucks, while a win isn’t as important.

Have you seen this year’s nominees? Let us know which you think most deserving of an Oscar on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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