The Oscars: Inside the Academy’s finances



Talk about Oscar gold. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences which stages the Academy Awards has amassed net assets of $167 million.

That staggering figure is contained in the Academy’s most recent Form 990 it filed with the Internal Revenue Service for the fiscal year 2007-2008.

The 990 reveals in detail just how big a cash cow the Academy Awards have become – and how much Oscar season costs the Academy.

The 990 states that the Academy received $210 million for broadcast rights to the Oscar telecast on ABC from 2006 to 2008.

Broken down by fiscal year, the broadcast rights went for $72 million in 2008, $71 million in 2007 and $67 million in 2006. More recent figures are not available.

This war chest is used to finance an array of educational, research and preservationist activities of the Academy and its nonprofit affiliates.

Where the Academy’s money goes, and how much it spends during awards season, is rarely the focus of news coverage in the run-up to Oscars. But the tax filings shine a spotlight on just how expensive mounting the Academy Awards has become.

Here are some of the expenses listed on the Academy’s latest 990:

Academy Awards program: $18,163,522.

Marketing and promotion: $2,175,549.

Board of Governor’s Ball: $1,587,067.

Scientific and Technical Awards: $394,753.

Awards screenings: $227,795.

Nominee’s luncheon: $194,473.

Academy Awards nominee’s announcement: $168,434.

Security: $166,237.

Press relations: $162,470.

New York awards ceremony: $77,623.

London awards ceremony: $40,469.

The Academy’s 990 lists total revenues of $83,826,447 and total expenses of $62,056,486.

The Academy is not a traditional charity that seeks donations from the public. The bulk of its revenues comes from the Oscar telecast and investments, officials say.

Overseeing the Academy is an unpaid Board of Governors, whose membership includes studio executives, producers, writers, directors, actors (Tom Hanks is the board’s current first vice president), and others.

Heading the administrative staff is long-time AMPAS Executive Director Bruce Davis, who was paid $339,485 in fiscal 2008, according to tax documents.

Contributions to his employee benefit and deferred compensation plans totaled $130,001.

Other administrative costs included:

Staff wages: $4.9 million.

Legal fees: $2.9 million.

Pension plan contributions: $1.4 million.

Employee benefits: $831,699.

Printing and publications: $793,922

Compensation for officers, directors and other key employees: $558,197

Supplies: $454,949.

Payroll taxes: $408,286.

Postage and shipping: $295,855.

Equipment rental and maintenance: $192,465.

Telephone: $134,245.

Travel: $57,655.

Conferences, conventions and meetings: $43,759.

With its mission of promoting public interest in the arts and sciences of motion pictures and recognizing outstanding achievements in film, the Academy dispensed $3 million during the year to USC’s film school and $50,000 to the nonprofit Association of Moving Image Archivists in Hollywood.

Each year, the Academy also dispenses numerous smaller grants. In 2009-2010, for example, grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 went to groups like Streetlights, where young minority residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods, work on actual commercials, music video, television or movie productions, and to the Institute of American Indian Arts, which is a federally chartered fine arts college in Santa Fe, N.M., to help fund scholarships for a summer television and film workshops.

Through the Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, the Academy annually gives up to five $30,000 fellowships to authors who have previously earned less than $5,000 writing for film or TV.

Since 1999, the Academy has awarded more than $3 million to film festivals, including $450,000 to 24 U.S. film festivals in 2009 alone.

AMPAS gave the bulk of its money to its four nonprofit affiliates. One is the Vine Street Archive Foundation, which serves as the home to the Academy’s film archive known as the Mary Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study. The Pickford Center houses the Academy’s film archive. The archive collection totals more than 150,000 film and video assets and more than 60,000 titles and features personal collections of filmmakers, including Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, Fred Zinnemann, and Sam Peckinpah. Another is the Homewood Foundation, which was set up to acquire property for a proposed motion picture museum.

Part 1 of 2. TO be continued

Photo courtesy of AMPAS.

About Robert W. Welkos

Executive Editor: Robert W. Welkos is an award-winning journalist who covered the entertainment industry for 15 years as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. During this span, he wrote extensively about the movie industry from turmoil in the executive suites, the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, and box office hits and bombs to visits to movie sets as well as profiles of top stars and A-list directors, cutting edge features on the newest indie films and visits to famous film festivals like Sundance and Cannes. Prior to entertainment, Welkos worked as a reporter and assistant city editor in The Times’ Metro section where he undertook major investigations for the paper as well as covering breaking news and writing in-depth features. Before joining The Times, he worked for the Associated Press in Reno, Nevada, and City News Service in Los Angeles.

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  • February 24, 2010 | Permalink |

    OMG, they’re rolling in the bucks…..Supplies: $454,949 – that’s just ridiculous

  • February 24, 2010 | Permalink |

    Maybe they could pay the McCourt’s back taxes.

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