Oscars launch fundraising drive as Academy Awards audience shrinks

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is launching a $500mn global fundraising drive to bolster its finances and counter a decades-long decline in the audience for the annual Oscars TV broadcast that generates most of its revenue. 

The Academy has raised about $100mn already, with individual donors including billionaire Leonard Blavatnik, said Bill Kramer, the Academy’s chief executive, in an interview. It has also signed sponsorship deals with global luxury brands including the Dorchester Collection.

The TV audience for the Oscars has shrunk from nearly 44mn US viewers in 2014 to 19.5mn this year, according to Statista. The current deal between the non-profit Academy and ABC, the Walt Disney-owned TV network that broadcasts the Oscars, ends in 2028 — the 100th anniversary of the awards ceremony — and negotiations on renewal are set to begin soon.

Kramer describes the current ABC deal as “very healthy” and called the arrangement with Disney “an amazing partnership”. But he said that with streaming upending the film and TV business, the Academy decided it needed to embark on arevenue diversification campaign”.

“No healthy company or organisation should rely on one source of support to a degree that could cause concern if that support decreases,” he said.

The Academy’s push to reach global donors and sponsors comes as other non-profit arts groups are facing funding problems.

The Metropolitan Opera in New York took emergency funds from its endowment twice over the past year because of a cash shortfall. The chief executive of the Sundance Film Festival, which has struggled to bounce back from Covid-19 disruptions, stepped down in March amid funding problems.

“The Academy sits in two worlds, the film world and the non-profit arts and culture world, and both are going through radical business model shifts and radical changes to audiences,” Kramer said.

Besides the Oscars awards, the group also runs the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which opened in 2021, and supports educational programmes for young filmmakers.

Hollywood has been rocked by the disruption brought by the shift to streaming, the pandemic and last year’s strikes that shut down productions for months. But Kramer said streaming has also helped make the film business more global, which creates opportunities for the group he runs.

The Academy, long criticised by international filmmakers for being overly focused on US films, is trying to adapt to the shift to a more global audience, Kramer said.

“You see it reflected in our Oscar nominations and wins,” he said, noting that about 30 per cent of the Academy’s membership is now outside of the US, double what it was 10 years ago.

Parasite, a South Korean film, won Best Picture in 2020, and in the most recent Oscars two foreign films, The Zone of Interest and Anatomy of a Fall, were nominated for the top prize.

“The Academy is acknowledging the fact that we’re living in a much more globally focused world, a much more globally connected world,” Kramer said, which is why it is now looking for funding outside the US.

“This is a global play,” he said as he prepared to launch the fundraising campaign in Rome on Friday. “That is a way to signal to the world that we’re a global arts non-profit, and we’re working with a global base of supporters.”


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