While Oscar night is about who brings home the gold, for the major film studios the award nominations have already brought home the green. A study by two economics professors at Colby College estimated that a Best Picture nomination brings in more than $10 million in additional sales.
Nominations for Best Actor and Best Actress add an extra million. And that's just here in the good old U-S-of-A. Factor in international ticket sales as well as video and DVD sales and we're talking about some serious cake.
Now that's all well and good for the Time Warners
Fortunately, every once in a while Oscar throws individual investors a bone. That's right, sometimes you can catch an Oscar-worthy film and in the process pick up a few tips that you can put to use in your financial life.
This year, sad to say, the pickings are pretty slim. Let's face it, great movies centered around business don't come around every year. (If you don't believe me, talk to anyone who saw Boiler Room.) So, before Mystic River and Lord of the Rings battle it out for Oscar gold on Sunday night, here are a quartet of films that just might help your finances.
Citizen Kane (1941)
Oscars: Considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, Citizen Kane was nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor (the latter two for Orson Wells). At the end of the night it brought home only one -- Best Original Screenplay.
Plot: Told almost entirely in flashback, the film examines the life of Charles Foster Kane, a newspaper tycoon who dies alone in his extravagant mansion, Xanadu.
Financial lesson: Nearly 70 years before the dot-com revolution, Kane introduces the concept of the "burn rate" to a colleague worried that the newspaper Kane is running lost a million dollars in one year.
Kane: "You're right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars next year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I'll have to close this place in... 60 years."
Hidden Gem: When looking for good investments, start close to home.
Reporter: "Mr. Kane, how did you find business conditions in Europe?"
Kane: "How did I find business conditions in Europe? With great difficulty."
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Oscars: Amazingly, this film earned only a single Oscar nomination for Al Pacino as Best Supporting Actor. To be honest, I'm still stumped by this. The film stars Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, and Alec Baldwin who have earned, over their careers, a collective 25 Oscar nominations. This is an all-star cast that actually lives up to its billing.
Plot: The film version of David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning play examines the pressures in the lives of real estate salesmen in Chicago. Adding to their stress is a new sales contest at their firm. First prize is a car, second prize is a set of steak knives, and third prize is you're fired. Let the games begin.
Financial lesson: When announcing the sales contest, Mr. Blake (Baldwin) encourages the group with the simple mantra every salesperson needs to know.
Blake: "A - B - C. A - Always, B - Be, C - Closing. Always be closing, ALWAYS BE CLOSING!"
Hidden Gem: Alec Baldwin. The part of Mr. Blake was not included in the play but written specifically for the film by David Mamet. Appearing in only the film's opening scene, Blake sets the tone for the "sell-or-hit-the-bricks" world of high-pressured real estate by boiling everything down to one simple goal.
Blake: "Only one thing counts in this world: Get them to sign on the line which is dotted!"
Wall Street (1988)
Oscars: Michael Douglas (Mr. Catherine Zeta-Jones to you younger folks) deservedly took home the gold for Best Actor. And while it's probably not something she puts on her resume, Daryl Hannah won the Golden Raspberry Award (a.k.a., "Razzie") for Worst Supporting Actress.
Plot: Charlie Sheen plays Bud Fox, a young stockbroker who dreams of making it big. When he makes an impression on high-powered finance king Gordon Gekko (Douglas), Fox finds himself swept up in a fast-paced lifestyle that clashes with his upbringing and threatens to spin out of control.
Financial lesson: From Gordon Gekko comes the single sentence every investor should embrace: "The most valuable commodity I know of is information." (What, you thought I was going to go with the "Greed is good" speech? Please.)
Hidden Gem: With all of the Gekko-isms about the ways of Wall Street, the classic hidden gem in this film comes when Bud Fox and his father Carl have a frank exchange about the true meaning of success:
Bud: "What I see is a jealous old machinist who can't stand to see his son has become more successful than he is."
Carl: "What you see is a guy who never measured a man's success by the size of his wallet."
Working Girl (1989)
Oscars: Nominations for Best Picture and Best Director for Mike Nichols, Best Actress for Melanie Griffith, and Best Supporting Actress for both Joan Cusack and Sigourney Weaver. Carly Simon brings home the statue for Best Song with her 9-to-5 anthem, "Let The River Run."
Plot: Griffith plays Tess McGill, a hardworking young woman trying to break into the corporate world, in spite of her new boss Katherine (Sigourney Weaver.) Katherine breaks her leg on a ski vacation and asks Tess to look after things at the office. When Tess discovers Katherine has stolen her idea that would save a client's company from a foreign takeover, she sets out to close the deal with Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) before Katherine returns to the office.
Financial lesson: "I have a head for business and a bod for sin. Is there anything wrong with that?" Hard-working girl Tess reminds us that all work and no play makes Tess a dull girl. (She then proceeds to demonstrate that all tequila and no food make Tess a very drunk girl.)
Hidden Gem: Harrison Ford. While he didn't get a nomination, Ford shows a surprisingly deft touch for light comedy. Also amazing is the fact that Ford's on-screen romances seem to be with women only 10 years younger than him.
Sunday night we can all kick back and see who takes home the film industry's biggest prize. Watch host Billy Crystal try out some new comedy shtick, cringe (or cheer) at political statements, and be horrified by the looks of at least one major star (think Renee Zellweger from last year's Oscars). But unless you're investing in Joan Rivers' plastic surgery or betting on cleavage exposure, don't expect to make any money. At least not with this year's crop.
Chris Hill is a longtime friend of the Fool and a former staff member. He owns none of the companies (or actresses) mentioned in this article.