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And the Award Goes to…Wharton Talks About the Financial Benefit of Winning an Oscar

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Nearly 30 million people tuned into the 91st Academy Awards ceremony this past Sunday, rooting for Roma, listening for Lady Gaga, or just joyfully discovering Olivia Colman. Fanfare and speeches aside, there’s no doubt that winning an Academy Award is a great honor. Whether it’s a film, actor, director, or those working behind the camera, an Oscar is validation for a lot of hard work. But what is the actual benefit of winning an Oscar beyond a gold statue? Is there any financial award? That’s what a recent Knowledge@Wharton podcast set out to discover.

The podcast, which interviewed Wharton’s Jehoshua Eliashberg and S. Abraham Ravid, talks about the benefits of being nominated and winning an Oscar.

The Financial Benefits of an Oscar

No need to wait for a twist ending: No, an Academy Award-winning actor does not move the financial needle for movies. According to research conducted over two decades, there is no statistical correlation between the success of a film and hiring an Oscar-winning actor. What actually determines success is the director and the writer.

“If you look at the Academy Awards, it’s extremely rare that a movie would win without the director and/or the writer being nominated,” said Ravid. “And it’s quite possible that they win without actors being nominated.”

Eliashberg agrees. However, he believes that the screenplay is the essential element of an Oscar win. Also, he thinks that it’s an Oscar nomination that more important than a win in terms of financial gain.

After the Awards

As for what happens after the award, a blockbuster isn’t guaranteed. While a win does give you a bump, it’s not as much as you might expect. In particular, Oscar-winning actors have little to contribute to a film’s success. However, winning actors do command a higher salary, which is good for them if not for the movies in which they appear.

As for Eliashberg, he sees the benefit of an Oscar post-award season as being highly dependent on how the film did before the award. For example, nominees Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star Is Born both made about $200 million before the Academy Awards. If they had won, Eliashberg feels that they wouldn’t have much to gain. “But if you look at a movie such as Green Book that has not made that much money, this is the one that is likely to benefit most if it wins the Oscar,” he says.

Netflix and the Oscars

According to both Ravid and Eliashberg, Netflix is changing the movie industry. Netflix is shortening release windows and opening up opportunities to local producers in different countries. “Their philosophy and strategy is to identify local storytellers that will enhance their portfolio of movies,” says Eliashberg. “I think that’s another big change in the way that movies used to be produced in the past.”

This could signal a change in how films will be nominated in the future. Netflix could encourage the Academy to reconsider how they define a feature film. However, Ravid doesn’t see any significant changes happening any time soon.

Read the full report and listen to the podcast here.

Kelly Vo
Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and topics related to personal development. She has been working in the MBA space for the past four years in research, interview, and writing roles.