Last night, the Academy Awards honored the best films, performances, and achievements of the last year. Like everything in today’s society, there was unanimous agreement with all of the picks.
If you tuned in to the show, you saw Laura Dern give a brief introduction to the Academy Museum – which they have billed as the “world’s premier film institution.” After a long delay, the $300 million museum is set to open later this year.
Through its capital campaign, the museum has picked up generous donations from Hollywood bigwigs, such as $25 million from studio exec David Geffen and a trio of $5 million gifts from other producers.
So it may come as a bigger shock than Olivia Colman’s win last night that American taxpayers have pitched in $452,500 in grant money to the Academy and its museum project since 2014. The same Academy that pays its president $761,000 in annual salary and the director of the yet-to-be-opened museum $567,000.
Over the last 5 years, the Academy has been awarded nine grants from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH), and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). That it includes $105,000 that it received in 2018 for a museum exhibit on Black Cinema from 1900-1970. Though surely a worthy historical exhibit – maybe the funding could have come from the deep pockets of Hollywood or the lucrative pay of the Academy executives rather than taxpayer dollars.
The first grant to the Academy’s museum project was a $25,000 grant from NEA in 2015 to help “move planning forward after preliminary brainstorming that began early last year on the film academy’s museum.” Another $30,000 grant purports to help develop a web portal into one of the museum’s planned exhibits.
At least we weren’t subjected to a bumbling acceptance speech for those awards.
Federal grants are not the only reason for Hollywood to celebrate.
The $452,500 in grants directed towards the Academy is dwarfed by the tax benefits that were rained upon Hollywood in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2018. A provision in the tax bill allows for a 100 percent deduction on the costs of production for films, tv shows, and theatrical productions – eliminating the $15 million expense cap that existed prior to the bill.
In other words, a movie studio can deduct the costs of a big budget film as soon as it’s released. One insider said that this allows for “a smart investor can be assured of a 50%-70% return on investment regardless of whether the project was a success.”
The Hollywood tax break will save the industry $5.5 billion in taxes over the next 5 years.
For that we want a do-over.