Does it cost a lot to win a star an Oscar? What costs more, a movie or an Oscar campaign?
—The Singular, via Twitter
Well, if a movie costs as much as Argo (which set its producers back more than $40 million), then it's safe to bet that its campaign budget is smaller. If a movie only costs, say, $1.8 million, which is the estimate for Beasts of the Southern Wild, you may assume the opposite to be true.
Now let's get down to specifics, including how much, say, Jessica Chastain herself is likely paying out of pocket right this very minute. And you read that right: Whether it's a best actress bid or best supporting, like Amy Adams, it's likely that your favorite actor is shelling out some money herself!
It's not just the studios who shell out for an Oscar campaign. Granted, the studios certainly pay the most; I've fielded estimates ranging from $3 million to $25 million for a single Oscar campaign. (Sometimes the Oscar campaign budgets are merged together with a theatrical advertising budget. The total cost to promote Dreamgirls—for theaters and Oscars—was a reported $35 million.)
The stars, meanwhile, pay much less during Oscar campaign season. But they do pay.
"Their monthly publicity budget goes up briefly," celebrity accountant Andrew Blackman tells me. "It's only for, what, two months? But it may go up from $5,000 to $10,000."
In other words, a celebrity like Jennifer Lawrence is likely paying her publicist double right now...to work double time.
As for where the big money goes, I hear the fattest singular cost may be in those fancy For Your Consideration ads in the Hollywood trade papers. Those cost roughly $30,000 per page in places like The Hollywood Reporter.
Then there are the private screenings—industry-only events where Oscar voters mingle with producers and talent. Theaters may charge, say, $3,000 for a night of such mingling.
Plus, of course, there's travel--putting up the film's talent at the Four Seasons (say, $450 a night); paying for a stylist to pull wardrobe for the actors while on the campaign trail ($1,500 to $10,000 a day); feeding the actress (assuming she eats); hiring a car and driver to take the talent to screenings and red carpet events...you get the idea.
In other words, an Oscar doesn't come cheap for a Chastain or Jennifer Lawrence. But it does pay off.
"An Oscar can turn a $300,000- to $500,000-a-picture actor into a million-a-picture actor," Blackman explains.
And that's what's known as a good return on an investment.