Photograph by Amy Sancetta — AP
By Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
February 20, 2015

The Oscars are big business in Hollywood: The L.A. economy rakes in an estimated $130 million thanks to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ yearly hubbub. And Best Picture winners take in an extra $14 million, on average, at the box office after a victory. But what would nabbing a statue on Sunday do for individual stars’ bottom lines, besides adding a $400 hunk of gold-plated pewter to their list of assets?

Speaking strictly financially, the benefits can vary widely. Agents and managers report using Oscar wins to leverage as much as a 20% bump in asking price on major films. But there are many confounding factors. Budgets vary tremendously depending on production size, and bigger productions don’t often offer the best roles. There may be gender differences, too, according to one study, done by a Colgate grad student, which found that actors can earn as much as 83 percent higher on their first post-Oscar movie (perhaps because they take bigger-budget jobs after taking the salary cut necessary for an awards-bait indie). Actresses, the same study found, see no benefits, and sometimes take a salary hit (a phenomenon that could be due to Hollywood ageism, rather than directly linked to the win).

The fact is that Hollywood producers know there’s no correlation between hiring an Oscar-winning star and making big bucks on a film, according to several studies over the last 15 years by S. Abraham Ravid, a professor of finance at Yeshiva University. “It almost never works out that having an Academy Award winner in a film made any difference,” Ravid says. “It’s probably nice for them to win, but it’s not necessarily good for anyone to hire them.”

That said, in a time of diminishing movie-star power, an Oscar win can result in career benefits beyond the bottom line. It can burnish name recognition, signal a comeback, or solidify an actor’s transition into a more serious phase—all of which result in more and better choices for stars. Here, those whose stock could particularly rise with a win:


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