Costing the Oscars: and your bill for the evening is … $44m

From courting voters to hiring red carpet, the Academy Awards are big business. Heres what they cost, what they earn and how much you need to spend to help secure victory

The campaign ($5-8m)

Getting on to the podium is the first and most difficult step for any film: the competition is intense, and getting more intense by the year. To pull your film out of the swirling mass of product, first, hire a specialist Oscar campaigner. They will have contacts and strategies to get to the Academy voters and crucially know the rules. (Lavish party, yes; talking down other films, no). Theres a whole culture of courting the Academy, says veteran publicist Bumble Ward. Academy members can go out for lunch and dinner every single day in the season. That is part of the game: who can you get in the room that will make people want to show up? At the end of the day, we are a talent culture people are still excited to meet movie stars.

Navigating the right path as the film leaves the editing room is vital: from premiering at a gateway festival (Telluride is the Good Housekeeping seal of approval for an Academy movie, says Ward) to organising attention-attracting events, such as the reconstruction of the set of Room in a Los Angeles cinema. Critics still play a key role in achieving Oscar credibility. A good PR knows their press, and knows peoples taste and what they respond to, says Ward. So they will show them the movie first, as they are the people who will talk about the movie the right way.

The costs are borne by the films US distributors, rather than producers; Oscar campaigns are part of the marketing and PR that is already happening for the films general release. Ward says the trick is sustainability rather than the two-week release window that standard film marketing aims at, making a film seem interesting and new and fresh over several months, or a year, is a very hard thing to do.

Here are some of the estimated key costs:

Specialist PR consultant: $10,000-$15,000.

Advertising: $1m before nomination; $800,000 after.

TV commercials and promo: $1.5m.

Talent costs: $900,000, for flying stars to screenings and events, for instance.

Film screenings: around $160,000.

DVD and digital screeners: around $300,000. These are crucial says Ward: As much as everyone says things are better on the big screen, people are intrinsically lazy, and want to watch them at home in comfort over Thanksgiving.

Other awards: $500,000, for Golden Globes campaigns etc, which are treated as part of the wider Oscar campaign. (Estimates via stephenfollows.com)

The show ($44m)

The Academys yearly financial report contains basic details of the costs: in 2016 it spent $44m on the Academy awards and related activities. The figures cover the awards ceremony, and a string of allied events, including the nominees luncheon (cost: $260,000), the Governors awards (for lifetime achievement; cost: $865,000) and the Governors Ball (the Oscars official afterparty; cost: $1.8m). But the live show, on Sunday night, is estimated at $21m-$22m.

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This years Oscars host, Jimmy Kimmel, is expected to take a union minimum of $15,000. Photograph: Jeff Lipsky/ABC/Getty Images

List of estimated key costs:

Show producers fee: $100,000 each, for Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd.

Hosts fee: $15,000, union minimum, for this years MC, Jimmy Kimmel.

Dolby theater: hire fee not known, part of a complex deal linked to Dolbys naming rights to the theatre, but the Academy has a 20-year agreement.

Oscar statuettes: gold-plated bronze, costing around $900 each.

Security: $250,000.

Red carpet: $1.50 per square foot, for a 500ft x 33ft carpet, comes in at $24,700.

Catering: no total figure available, but Wolfgang Puck is expected to spend roughly $20,000 on chocolate and $25,000 on steak for the traditional 1,500-seat aftershow meal.

Last year, the Academy received $113.1m as income in its awards division, a profit of $69.1m. The biggest chunk of income comes from Disney, which pays around $75m annually to broadcast the show on ABC. Its motivation? Selling advertising space, which last year reached around $2m for a 30-second spot. In 2015, ABC made $110m in ad fees from its broadcast.

The Academy also charges attendees for tickets, which range from $750 to $150 for a 3,400-seat hall.

The notorious goody bags, given out by the marketing firm Distinctive Assets and this year valued at $160,000, are entirely unofficial; in 2016, the Academy launched a legal action against the company for copyright infringement, which has now been settled under confidential terms. This years bags contain, among other items, a three-day stay at the Lost Coat Ranch ($40,000), 10 sessions with a celebrity fitness trainer ($900) and a cellulite massage mat ($99). The goody bag is part of the parallel world of the celebrity gifting suite, which piggybacks on the Oscars. (Estimates via Hollywood Reporter.)

The effect ($3m)

Is all the effort worth it? An Oscar-winning film reaps an unquantifiable amount of kudos, with the participants receiving an often career-changing status hike. But the likely boost to box office is considerably smaller. Figures via data analyst Edmund Helmer suggest that Oscar winners add around $3m to their box office; this compares unfavourably with the Golden Globes effect, which adds on average $14.1m.

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Canny strategy Bradley Cooper in American Sniper. Photograph: Keith Bernstein/AP/Warner Bros

The film with the single biggest increase after nomination is, strangely, American Sniper, the controversial biopic of Navy Seal Chris Kyle. Its box office revenue increased 90% after it was nominated. However, its figures are more likely related to a canny marketing strategy that did not rely on, or even expect, Academy approval. Of the best picture winners, the most dramatic effect was on another Clint Eastwood project, Million Dollar Baby, which increased 56% after winning in 2005.

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