How much does an Oscar nomination cost?

What would you spend to win an Oscar?

This year’s list of Oscar nominations for best film is notable for a number of reasons – but primarily for the inclusion of two new entrants to the category: Marvel Studios for Black Panther, and Netflix for Roma. But the two illustrate very different business models.

Black Panther – nominated for seven Oscars – cost an estimated $200m to make, and has taken $1.3bn so far at the box office. That’s an earnings ratio of 6.5x (excluding marketing and distribution costs). This is good, even by Marvel’s money-making standards: the previous five Marvel films had average budgets of $250m, and takings of $925m (3.7x budget).

Roma cost $15m and took, er, $217,000 in a limited cinema release, an earnings ratio of 0.014x production costs – or, more straightforwardly, a loss of $14.8m. It is estimated that Netflix has spent an additional $25m on promoting the film ensure an Oscar or two. Clearly, Netflix has a different ambition in mind rather than profit: it wants to be taken seriously as a filmmaker, and it wants to attract subscribers to its VOD service. It remains to be seen how effective Roma is in this latter ambition compared to (say) their acquisition of The Crown or Birdbox; we suspect these may be more cost effective.

The average cost of making the films nominated for Best Picture this year was $52m; they took, on average, $337m. But, if you take out the outliers in Roma and Black Panther, these figures come down to a much more interesting comparison with the previous four years’ best picture nominees. The remaining six movies (The Favourite, A Star is Born, Vice, Blackkklansman, Green Book, and Bohemian Rhapsody) averaged $33.5m in production costs – almost identical to the $33.9m cost in the previous four years – but have so far taken an average $233m each. This is a substantial uptick from the $190m for previous years (and excludes the $1.3bn earnings from Black Panther), and is broadly reflective of global box office receipts. Cinema is having a moment.

One more way of looking at the stats over the last five years is to rank the performance of the best picture nominees against the entirely fictitious NODS Index (Nominations for Oscars per Dollar Spent) and the EON index (Earnings per Oscar Nomination). Unsurprisingly, Roma does not fare well in the latter comparison – but is also not the worst performer in the first. (‘Earnings’ is defined here as box office receipts minus production costs: it does not include marketing, distribution and other expenditure.)

Top and bottom three films by spend per nomination (NODS), ranked most to least efficient.

Ranking Film / year Budget Noms Ave NODS
#1 Moonlight (2017) $1.5m 8 $188,000
#2 Whiplash (2015) $3.3m 5 $660,000
#3 Boyhood (2015) $4m 6 $667,000
#39 The Martian (2017) $108m 7 $15.429m
#40 The Post (2018) $50m 2 $25m
#41 Black Panther (2019) $200m 7 $28.571m

Click here for a full list of films ranked by production budget over the last five years.

Best and worst performing three films by earnings per nominations (EON), best to worst performers.

Ranking Film / year Earnings Noms Ave EON
#1 Black Panther (2019) $1.1bn 7 $157.14bn
#2 Bohemian Rhapsody (2019) $748m 5 $149.6m
#3 American Sniper (2016) $488m 6 $81.33m
#39 Phantom Thread (2018) $13m 6 $2.17m
#40 Roma (2019) -$14.78 10 -$1.478m
#41 Vice (2019)* -$20m 8 -$2.5m

Click here for a full list of films ranked by earnings over the last five years.

*Vice is still in cinemas, so could yet make a profit. Though our in-house critic Matt has seen it and describes it as “hacky and lazy.”


Martin Tripp

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Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work across the media, information, technology, communications and entertainment sectors, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog. 

All stats and figures courtesy of iMDB and Box Office Mojo and The Numbers