Academy Awards and Dollars

1. The Best Picture award winners have a median rank of ninth at the box office for the relevant year.

2. The pictures with Best Actor winners have a median rank of nineteenth.

3. The Best Actress award movies have a median rank of thirty-two, in other words these movies tend to be niche pictures, not big hits. Women don’t get the best starring roles in the hits.

4. Big studio blockbusters won Best Picture awards for many decades, The English Patient broke this pattern in 1996.

5. Over the last two decades, the Golden Globe “Best Picture – Drama” winner matches with the Best Picture winner 70 percent of the time.

6. Rob Schneider has applied to be a voter on the Academy Awards; to this date he has been refused. Mike Myers and Martin Lawrence are allowed to vote. Most of the voters are within the movie business and many have close links to the films under consideration.

The economist in me: I would design the awards to maximize the profits of the movie industry. Winning a major award boosts a picture’s box office appeal. So ideally the awards should go to the pictures with the highest elasticities of appeal, with respect to the award. This will be correlated with absolute levels of popularity, but not exactly. Might an older demographic see Return of the King holding a Best Picture award, but not otherwise? In contrast, most people won’t see a horror movie no matter what, so horror films are unlikely to win Best Picture awards.

The very existence of the awards encourages box office as well. The time leading up to the awards should be full of debate, controversy, and suspense. Award winners should not be too predictable. Furthermore the winning picture should reflect glory on the awards, rather than draining reputation. Historical spectaculars, or pictures with a high-brow element, are ideal. The awards should maximize profits over time, not just year-by-year.

Some of the awards should be given to indies, or to other minor players in the film industry. For the awards process to have maximum impact, it should command maximum legitimacy and loyalty from all points of view. Don’t let anyone feel totally left out.

Nor should you let controversial black singers bare their breasts at your mainstream audience.

Let voters receive gifts and special favors from directors and movie studios. This process of “bribery” will allow the final voting outcome to maximize profit, albeit with some uncertainty around the edges.

Did I mention that the award should make America look good? Cold Mountain, which was “outsourced” and filmed in Romania, was not a good candidate this year and indeed it was slighted in the nominations process.

That is how I would maximize profits with the award.

Hey, isn’t this what they have done?

Addendum: Read Alex on the Academy Awards.