And the Oscar goes to... the Oscar

February 2, 2015
M. Garrepy

I probably spent most of my “Oscar Sunday” professing a deep hatred for award shows – exclaiming that I would NOT be part of the diatribe on Facebook, nor participate in the glam and glitz of the red carpet coverage. And I managed to avoid most of the pre-show particulars by settling into another form of televised “zombie lust” (vis a vis “The Walking Dead”).

And yet…

I couldn’t help it. I was sucked in. Just like always.

The 2015 swath of Academy Award films were all “statueworthy” in their own right; I suppose that made the show even more tantalizing. Running the sublime and surrel Birdman up against the masterful work of The Imitation Game and throwing in the excrutiating power and tragedy of The Theory of Everything was just too much for this avid film fan to take. I loved them all – truly. But I was pulling for Birdman all the way. Michael Keaton’s ferocious, quasi real-life role as the comeback kid (think Kevin Costner in recent years) added to my anxiety as the envelope was slowly opened by the stunning Kate Blanchett…

Ugh. What am I doing? I’ve completely given myself over to the worldwide phenomenon that is the Oscars… and I simply can’t help it. Maybe I should give up, feign a death scene from Lear and hope for a nod by the academy.

The Oscar. It’s more than just a statue – and clearly, more than just an award. It’s iconic, and tells a nearly century-old story about the cultural significance and influence of film in our collective psyche. It’s clear that this achievement – this aspiration of everyone from the lowly grip to the Hollywood intelligentsia – has become a powerful global brand, one that has been nourished, protected and transformed into the signature accomplishment of an entire industry.

Yes… Oscar is more than an accolade. He’s a brand. And he’s a powerful one at that.

According to Business Insider, the Academy Award can do a lot for the success of a film – but it can also activate the careers of both actors, directors and almost anyone related to a winning movie. The article lists key areas that receive the most “Oscar Power” from the little golden god, including market validation and credibility, uniqueness, promotional power… but also the overall “brand strength” of being associated with it. This translates into a great marketing impact – because consumers trust the signature brand of the Academy Award, and are more inclined to invest their dollars and clicks into films that feature the same creative people.

Oscar also sports a bit of a “SuperBowl Effect” on the advertising rates around its live broadcast. Again, according to Business Insider, last year’s available commercial inventory was sold out by Christmas – and hit an all-time high between $1.8 million and $1.9 million for a 30-second spot. Ouch.

IBISWorld reported as well that the category of “Best Picture” winners over the last five years had average production budgets of around $17 million, but earned around $83 million at the box office. That’s almost a 500% margin! That’s why experts say that studios with Oscar contenders often spend upwards of $10 million to promote these films and realize the power of Oscar.

Reuters also reported that a nomination nod ain’t too shabby, either. They estimate that it can boost ticket sales by one third and impact DVD sales of movies after their theater runs. Add in digital downloads, cable and streaming media, and the benefits of a nomination translate into the big profits.

It’s also pretty clear that this “strategy” of playing the Oscar game can pay off. Business Insider goes on to mention that a nomination can mean “the difference between profits and bankruptcy for some movie productions.” That’s scary. And it’s why studios drop millions – MILLIONS – to promote their films for a nomination, just to get them on the board. Once we see them in contention, the “trust” gene has once again been activated, and we’re buying tickets and concessions at the local Cineplex.

Not that it’s all about the money. Er… welllll… OK, maybe a lot of it is. But it’s also about the pursuit of an artistic endeavor – a vision that a director, producer or studio has to disrupt or move an audience. Sometimes, the most unexpected films win the day – but it’s clear that whatever films and actors take home the statue, they benefit from the power and potential of a megalithic brand that can change everything.

In the mean time, if you haven’t seen the big winners from last night, go pop some popcorn and get cozy – there were some amazing films (“Birdman”!!!) in this year’s crop, and shouldn’t deny yourself the opportunity to witness true cinematic greatness.

Then, when all is said and done, you’ll see why once again, the Oscar goes to… Oscar.

Oh man – if you haven’t already seen it, do yourself a favor and watch Lady Gaga channel Julie Andrews. That’s literally the “sound” of music…