Oscarnomics: What It Costs to Create the Academy Awards Extravaganza
This story first appeared in the March 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The most important show in town requires minding the pocketbook. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences scored a good deal with the Dolby Theatre in 2012, smartly leveraging the bankruptcy of former sponsor Kodak to negotiate a new 20-year lease. Financial terms were not disclosed, but it's estimated that Kodak received $500 million worth of positive exposure from the Oscars. The city also benefits: The Los Angeles Economic Development Council says Oscar fever injects $130 million into the economy every year.
The Academy reported $89.6 million in Oscar-related revenue in the financial statement it released in June. The bulk of that income is from the Walt Disney Co., which pays $75 million annually for the rights to broadcast the awards show on ABC through 2020.
Last year, the Academy spent $38.3 million on the awards show and its satellite events, up nearly $3 million from 2011. Using a combination of figures publicly released by the Academy during the past six years as well as estimates and price quotes from comparable vendors, THR has calculated the distribution of funds and highlighted a few line items from the Oscars’ annual ledger.
THE ACADEMY AWARDS:
The amount AMPAS spent to present the 84th annual Oscars ceremony in February 2012.
Producers’ honorarium: $100,000-plus
As a token of gratitude for overseeing the massive enterprise, the Academy sends the telecast’s producers (this year: Craig Zadan and Neil Meron) a thank-you card and a check in the low-six figures.
Host’s fee: $15,000-$25,000
The responsibility of keeping the awards show entertaining and ending it on time goes to the host, and for shouldering that burden, first-time host Seth MacFarlane is paid above the $15,000 SAG-AFTRA minimum.
Oscar statuettes: $45,000
The value of the 24-karat-plated mini man is tied to the price of gold, currently about $1,600 an ounce. THR calculates that each of this year’s 50 statuettes from manufacturer R.S. Owens is worth about $900.
A private firm unaffiliated with the Academy estimates it costs a quarter-million dollars to secure the Oscars, a process that requires thousands of hours of preparation and months of planning and training.
Adele and Norah Jones receive a minimum of $3,500 to perform nominated songs; union rates for other numbers start at $2,400 for soloists like Barbra Streisand and $5,000 for groups like the Les Mis ensemble.
The set: Less than $1 million
The cost of the Dolby Theatre set is comparable to that of a major musical: at least several hundred thousand dollars. The Academy saves by renting equipment that vendors are loath to loan to open-ended Broadway runs.
Winners’ envelopes: $10,000
Stationery designer Marc Friedland spends 110 hours laminating, hand-folding, goldleaf-stamping and embossing 488 nominee cards, but only the 24 bearing the winners’ names will be revealed onstage.
The red carpet: $25,000
Unaffiliated L.A.-based Red Carpet Systems quotes $1.50 per square foot for the priceless experience of walking the world’s most famous crimson corridor, which is 500 feet long and 33 feet wide.
Oscar-related activities include nominees’ events and legal expenses.
Membership screenings: $250,000-plus
The Academy’s year-round calendar includes events and screenings in L.A., New York and London for all the Oscar-nominated films.
Nominees Luncheon: $260,000
The 156 Oscar contenders gathered at the Beverly Hilton on Feb. 4 for the annual luncheon and class photo, after which each received an “Oscar nominee” sweatshirt.
Copyright/trademark protection: $1.5 million
The Academy pays about $1.5 million in annual legal expenses, some of which was spent this year on a lawsuit against domain registrar GoDaddy.
Governors Awards: $865,000
On Dec. 1, the Academy saluted D.A. Pennebaker, George Stevens Jr. and Hal Needham and recognized Jeffrey Katzenberg with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
Sci-Tech Awards: $432,000
Star Trek’s Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana hosted the Feb. 9 ceremony at the Beverly Hills Hotel to honor the film industry’s scientific and technical trailblazers.
Thanks to vendor deals, event planner Sequoia Productions spends up to four-fifths less than the estimated retail value of the items below.
Sterling Vineyards wine: $58,000
The Napa winery is providing 540 bottles each of its 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (retail $75) and its 2009 Reserve Chardonnay ($33), which took 1.8 million grapes to create.
Thienot Champagne: $87,000
The relatively obscure brand will make its Oscar debut at the Governors Ball with Thienot Brut ($40) at the preshow reception, followed by Thienot Rosé ($66) and the Thienot Vintage 2005 ($50).
White truffles: $34,800
The creme de la creme of the prized delicacy hails from Alba, Italy, and Wolfgang Puck is using 10 pounds of the stuff for his chestnut tortellini, among other dishes. Rakuten.com offers 4 ounces for $870.
Snake River Farms steak: $25,300
The Idaho-based purveyor’s website sells two 10-ounce New York strip steaks for $79. Puck has ordered 400 pounds, which he will serve with Japanese matsutake mushrooms ($45 a pound).
Chocolate: $20,000 From “pop rock” pops to gold-dusted Oscars, there’s no shortage of the guilty pleasure on pastry chef Sherry Yard’s menu, which will use 1,000 pounds of Guittard bittersweet chocolate ($30 for a dozen two-ounce bars).
Lux Lounge EFR is creating 423 lounge pieces, which will be covered in 1,935 yards of fabric from Resource One. Custom glass cocktail tables will feature blooms from Mark’s Garden sprouting from the pedestal.
Chandelier: $1 million
The grand centerpiece of this year’s ball is a custom-designed 120-by-70-foot six-tier fixture, composed of 1.78 million beads and 18,000 LED points of light. It will be available to rent after the party.
Event staff: $240,000
To accommodate the 1,500 VIP guests, at least 1,000 personnel (including 350 culinary staff in uniforms designed by ball chair Jeffrey Kurland) will be on hand, working about 12 hours at an average of $20 an hour.
Haute Hotel Accommodations
The top hotels sell out completely. Absolutely no discounts are offered, so everyone pays the maximum rate: The penthouse suite at the Sunset Tower is $4,000 a night during Oscar weekend, compared with $2,500 seven days later. With every last room occupied by VIPs, hotels invest in concierge service and special amenities. The Peninsula Beverly Hills increases its weekend staff by 15 percent to 20 percent and purchases city permits to park guest limos on adjacent streets.
A Boon to the Beauty Biz
Juan Juan Salon sees up to 200 extra clients during Oscar weekend, and on Oscar Sunday its stylists are out at dawn on house calls, which start at $500. During awards season, facialist Terri Lawton adds up to three appointments daily (from $285, though other salons have charged up to $1,200), while Kate Somerville’s clinic brings in three more aestheticians to handle demand for its red-carpet oxygen treatment ($260) and facial ($285). Stylists can do up to $20,000 worth of work for a client, whose studio sometimes foots the bill.