The official Oscar night entertainment isn’t cheap

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The official Oscar night entertainment isn't cheap

In an idle moment, I somewhat, half-heartedly thought (okay, less than half, maybe a third) that it would be fun to leave the professionals behind and spend March 10, Academy Awards night, with some actual fans at the annual ceremony. It is possible A “one of a kind” viewing party at the Academy Museum.

So I did some window shopping on the museum’s website. Very good,

Officially sponsored Oscars entertainment doesn’t come cheap. A non-member ticket for the five-hour black-tie optional event goes for $250. For the arithmetically challenged, it’s $500 per pair, which gives you Appetizer And tacos, complimentary wine from European Oscar sponsors Clarendon and Domaine Clarence Dillon (many bottles of which are moderately priced), access to museum galleries and stores, and unreserved seating wherever you can.

For an additional $200, or $400 per couple – that’s $900 total – they’ll throw in dinner, free beer and cocktails, as well as reserved seats in the tea room.

The academy is apparently ready to bear its costs on this. Given the immense financial pressure that came with owning the massive film museum at the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Blvd., it should.

This is not at all unexpected. Academy executives knew what they were doing when years ago they decided to invest a good portion of their annual Oscar profits back then in a glitzy motion picture showcase.

But it’s worth taking another look at the numbers, if only as a reminder that the ratings-challenged Oscars ceremony — which currently grosses $87 million a year after expenses, mostly from broadcast contracts expiring in 2028 — Somewhat weak support is a burden that has increased greatly since the museum opened in late 2021.

A small detail of expenses hidden in the footnote of the academy’s latest audited financial report for the financial year ended June 30 last tells the story.

Overall, the museum, whose revenue for the year was only $18 million, incurred $91.2 million in expenses—about 42 percent of total spending at the Academy. It accounted for the largest single category of expenditure, more than four times the approximately $22 million in general and administrative expenses, and 60 percent more than the $56.9 million cost of organizing the Academy Awards.

In cash terms, the burden was light, as $29.7 million in museum expenses were attributed to depreciation, a non-cash charge to earnings. But museum-related cash expenditures still remained at $61.5 million, including $10.5 million in interest on the loan. To put things in perspective, that’s nearly double the $32.2 million in contributions collected by the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a respected Hollywood charity, in 2022, according to its latest available tax filing.

Subtract the museum’s $18 million in income from its $61.5 million in cash expenditures, and you’ll be at $43.5 million for the year. The contribution for fiscal year 2023 was $21.7 million; But there’s still a gap of about $22 million to be covered by Oscar profits and investment income.

Fortunately, the Academy has seen both profit and investment returns. But the museum’s needs are great, the Oscars are faltering, and Academy officials are looking for new revenue. Hence the mailing list fee that could easily cost $7,500 for a stack of email blasts to a competitor, or the Academy screening room fee of $20,000 per film (or $25,000 if you want your photo watermarked). Hence, the red carpet access fees, expensive theater rentals, and even blatant commercial sponsorship by Rolex and others.

Indeed, a silent statement on page 17 of Oscar Bond’s offering last September suddenly screams a little louder. The Museum Foundation, notes the offering, “is still seeking pledge commitments from additional donors and expects such efforts to continue over the next several years.” There is some fundraising on the horizon, and not just by the Biden campaign.

Given all this, I guess I can understand a $250 charge for some tacos (at least from Wolfgang Puck) and a sip of wine. And the event is believed to require some expensive staging. But on March 10, I think I’ll be doing my darshan at home on the couch.

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