Hollywood’s elite has spent the past few weeks on the awards circuit, picking up prizes and gladhanding at fancy parties. Of course, the biggest award night is still to come – the Oscars. Getting there takes a lot more than just making a good movie. As Gina Delvac reports, it can cost a lot to get your name into the envelope.
Before you start thanking the Academy and crying over the swelling music, know that it’s going cost you to get to that Oscar stage. More than long hours on the set. More than press conferences and screenings. And more than the punishing diet and workout routine required to look fabulous.
It will cost time, and it will cost money. But how much?
"My initial rule is thumb is through the nominating process that you have to spend a minimum of – I would venture to guess — $200,000. That’s the minimum," says longtime Hollywood publicist Ziggy Kozlowski at Block Korenbrot, a PR firm.
That $200,000 is what you, as a writer or director, say, might spend just trying to get nominated. That could be out of pocket, especially if your studio isn’t backing you.
The studios and distributors who are really in it to win big on Oscar night?
"Hollywood spends on average about $150 million dollars a year to win an Oscar that costs $400 to manufacture. Now that’s proof that Hollywood is crazy right there," says Tom O’Neil, editor of the awards-tracking website GoldDerby.com.
O’Neil points to "The Hurt Locker," the gritty Iraq war film that won in the Best Picture category in 2010. Producers say they spent $3-5 million on their Oscars campaign. But their competitors say, triple that.
"The Hurt Locker"’s distributor, Summit Entertainment, was flush with money from another movie you might’ve heard of.
"The vampire movie makers wanted to be the big boys in town," O'Neil says. Summit used the money from "Twilight" to mount a full-scale campaign for "The Hurt Locker." That Best Picture Oscar seems to indicate that their campaign paid off.
Whether it costs $200,000 dollars or $15 million, the bulk of the money in any Oscar campaign is spent on advertising.
"You know you look at something like the New York Times. An ad for a movie could cost anywhere between $50,000-100,000. That’s a lot of money, but you’re going to hit that audience. You’re going to hit that older Academy member who’s reading the New York Times," says Malkin.
Then there are DVD mailers: $3 bucks a piece, if the movie’s been out a while, and as much as $14 if it has be hand delivered. Plus, tens of thousands of potential recipients when you tally up the Screen Actors, Writers, and Directors’ Guilds.
Not to mention special screenings so that Academy members can actually see the movies in a theater. Those screenings aren’t cheap. Cast and crew often fly all over the place to attend in-person Q&A sessions, racking up hotel bills and travel expenses along the way.
And of course, there are the parties.
Marc Malkin at E! showed up at one party hosted by The Weinstein Company to celebrate their contenders this year, including "Django Unchained," "Silver Linings Playbook" and "The Master." It was sponsored by a champagne company.
"And you see a lot of the celebrities posing with the bottle of champagne. Then you see the champagne girls who are just models to look pretty and hold the champagne. And obviously the champagne has nothing, nothing to do with the movie, but it’s probably gonna save them a lot of money. Because probably the champagne company’s going to pay for it before the film company does," Malkin says.
Whether it’s the sponsor or the studio that’s paying, there’s little doubt that money makes the Oscar circuit go ‘round. Yet, even after spending all that time and all that money, there’s still no guarantee that your movie will win.
Remember... "The Alamo"?
John Wayne starred in and directed the 1960 epic, and ran a massive advertising campaign that devolved into name-calling. In Wayne’s eyes, you were unpatriotic if you voted for anyone else.
"The Alamo" won one Oscar: best sound.