The Oscar Bump

Each year movie lovers anticipate the Academy Awards to see if their favorite films or actors will get the recognition that they deserve. Many individuals in the film community are critical about the competition, that pits one actor against another, one film against another. How does one judge what is truly the best film or performance of the year? Anthony Holden, author of Behind the Oscar, writes: “Even in Hollywood, nobody pretends that the Oscars are entirely about artistic merit. Originally launched to help repair the industry’s tarnished image, they are now largely about what the press agents call ‘positioning.’ A long list of apparent irrelevancies such as age, public image, previous track record, popularity within the industry and above all, box-office bankability count for as much as the actual product or performance among many Oscar voters, who tend to be older, often retired members of the film community. Their average age has been computed at sixty.” At bottom, the Academy Awards is about the business of making movies and the power of promotion or more precisely, self-promotion — as Warren Beatty once quipped to a worldwide audience, “We want to thank all of you for watching us congratulate ourselves tonight.” Holden, and many film critics would concur: “In the case of the Oscars, it is the degree of sheer hype each year, combined with the spectacular awfulness of the Awards show itself, which blinds even the cognoscenti to the simple fact that these are internal awards just like any other industry’s.”

The movie industry learned long ago that internal awards or self-promotion does pay off. That increase in ticket sales even has a name: “the Oscar bump.” In 2011 IBISWorld, a research firm, analyzed the data and determined that ““the average best picture Oscar winners over the last four years saw a bump of 22.2 percent (or $20.3 million) in box office revenue after they were named a nominee and an additional 15.3 percent (or $14.0 million) following their win at the award show.” Independent or films with small budgets tend to get more “bang from the bump” surrounding a best-picture nomination — according to IBISWorld: “the average Oscar-nominated movie earned 254.4 percent of its budget back in box office sales.”

Even the world of fashion has benefited from the Oscar bump. The coverage of celebrities on the red carpet has almost eclipsed the award show itself. Almost every network now has dedicated fashion correspondent asking the most important question of the evening: “Who are you wearing tonight.” Within a few days of the award ceremonies, knock-offs of the most popular dresses and suits are available to the consumer at prices that most can afford (Oscar not included), generating millions of dollars for the fashion industry. At last, every one can dress like their favorite actor.

For further reading: Behind the Oscar: The Secret History of the Academy Awards by Anthony Holden, Simon & Schuster (1993)

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