As we all know, acting is a precarious, roller-coaster type business.
The Meryl Streeps, the Jack Nicholsons,
and the Brad Pitts, they’re few and far between.
Most actors or actresses will hit at least an occasional dry spell,
if not a permanent one.
For a very select few,
a seemingly easy solution to help get them through this dry spell financially
might be to sell their Oscar statuette.
I mean, it’s just otherwise collecting dust on a shelf somewhere, right?
Now, given only a little over 3,000 Oscars have been awarded since 1929
and there are countless collectors and movie fanatics out there,
you’d think an Oscar statuette would be worth a small fortune… right?
Well, unfortunately not so.
At least, not legally.
Every Academy Award nominee since the mid-twentieth century
is required to sign a “winner’s agreement” contract,
in which they must agree that neither they nor their heirs
will ever sell their Academy Award
without first offering to sell it back to the Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences
for one single dollar.
Yup, that’s absolutely right; before they can even fling it on eBay for a princely sum,
they have to offer it to the Academy for a single dollar.
This is despite the fact that the Oscar statuette in materials alone
is reportedly worth about $900,
mainly thanks to its relatively thick gold plating.
This forced contract is primarily the Academy’s way
of controlling the acquisition of its trophies.
They want to make sure no Oscar arrives in the hands of private collectors –
they should only ever be had by those who earned them or their heirs.
As one Academy representative noted,
“They’re not tchotchkes to be bought off of a shelf.”
好 要是有人不肯签协议书 怎么办？
Alright, so what happens if someone refuses to sign that agreement?
Well the Academy, they’ll actually take that statuette back.
It wasn’t always this way, though.
Much to the chagrin of the Academy,
those given Oscars before the 1951 award ceremony
were under no such agreement, and
many of those have been sold over the years.
For instance, Orson Welles’ heirs were able to sell
his 1941 Oscar for “Citizen Kane” in 2011
which is about $930,000 today.
This is despite the Academy previously attempting to bar them from doing this via a lawsuit.
But, in the end, the courts ruled that
as Welles had signed no such agreement,
his heirs were free to sell the statuette.
Other heirs who’ve tried similar sales on the pre-1950s statuettes
have had mixed results in winning such court battles.
Despite the Academy being extremely aggressive
combating any attempts to sell any Oscars, regardless of era,
it is generally estimated that at a minimum,
150 Academy Awards have been sold
since the first Oscar ceremony in 1929,
this is out of a total of 3,000 awarded.
Many of these are sold at least semi-secretly,
so that neither the buyer nor the seller has
to deal with the Academy’s wrath.
So of the known sales,
how much do these awards typically sell for at auction?
Well, the range is fairly big,
it’s typically at the lower end of a few tens of thousands of dollars,
and up wildly from there.
For reference, the most expensive of the known sales
is the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture for “Gone with the Wind”.
This was sold to Michael Jackson in 1999
for an astounding $1.5 million
which is about $2.2 million today.
Steven Spielberg also famously bought
Clark Gable’s Best Actor trophy for “It Happened One Night”
and Bette Davis’ Best Actress trophy for “Jezebel”
for a combined total of about $1.2 million.
However, this didn’t upset anyone at the Academy because
Spielberg promptly turned around and donated them to said Academy.
A few other actors have also purchased Oscars in similar ways and
donated them back to the Academy.
You might be wondering at this point
what the Academy does with such old statuettes
that it re-acquires in one way or another.
Well, mostly they just lock them in a vault,
rarely ever displaying them to the public.
While this may seem quite unfair,
apart from potential black-market sales of statuettes,
some who win Oscars are well compensated in other ways
for the Academy bestowing the award on them.
For instance, according to a study done at Colgate University,
“Academy Award Signaling and Gender Bias in Hollywood”,
male actors on average receive an 81% increase in their pay
in their post-Oscar acting years versus pre-award years,
at least some of which seems to be because of their Academy Award
and not just because they’ve been around in the industry for longer.
For women, however, as noted in the study,
“winning an Academy Award did not have a statistically significant effect
on women’s salaries in the sample.”
Why this is the case isn’t actually clear,
with a variety of speculative reasons suggested in the study.
比如说 在好莱坞 比起资深女演员
For instance, they noted that younger women in Hollywood
tend to get a majority of the available high paying female lead roles
versus their more seasoned counterparts.
This, combined with the fact that the average age
of an actress winning an Oscar is 36.77 years old,
around the time most actresses see their earnings decline,
it may be the case that these award winners simply
have fewer prime roles to pick from at this stage in their careers,
so have less ability to negotiate higher salaries after their Oscar win.
They are also often forced to round out their careers
taking minor roles that pay much less,
which may potentially be masking any statistically significant benefit
which an Oscar might be giving them in pay increase given the
limited sample size of award winners we have to work with.
On the flip side, the researchers noted that
the average age of a male actor winning an Oscar is 44.67.
Unlike with actresses,
leading roles for older male actors are drastically more prevalent,
allowing them greater flexibility in the roles that they choose
and greater leverage in salary negotiations.
The researchers also noted that,
whether a male actor wins an Oscar or not,
their salaries on average begin to markedly increase past 42 years old,
just more so if they also have an Oscar.
On the other hand,
as noted, actresses tend to earn the most early in their careers
with salaries beginning to drop off significantly
as they approach the age male actors’ salaries begin to rapidly rise.
Unfortunately, we could find no similar study done
comparing non-actor Oscar wins to see what, if any, future earnings benefit
the Academy Award provides for these individuals.
And now for a bonus fact:
In 1992, actor Harold John Russell needed money
to pay for his wife’s medical bills,
so decided to sell his Best Supporting Actor Oscar
for his role in “The Best Years of Our Lives“ from 1946,
with it being auctioned for $60,500,
which is about $103,000 today.
As you might imagine, this was a controversial move at the time,
but as he said:
“I don’t know why anybody would be critical.
My wife’s health is much more important than sentimental reasons.
The movie will be here, even if the Oscar isn’t.”
In an attempt to meet him halfway,
the Academy offered to loan Russell the money for the bills
if he wouldn’t sell his Oscar,
but, of course, he would have had to pay that back,
so, he refused the offer.
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