George Clooney? Billy Crystal? Who Has Most At Stake At The 2012 Oscars?

VIDEO: The Academy bars actor from attending Oscars as his "Dictator" character.
ABCNEWS.com

When the stars hit the red carpet on Sunday night for the 2012 Academy Awards show, most of the focus will be on the glitz and glamor of Hollywood at its best. Gowns will be discussed before the show and acceptance speeches will be analyzed later. But as much as the Oscars are about artistic achievement, they are also about business.

An Oscar win can mean big bucks for the winning film. IBIS World says that Best Picture nominees see an average 17.7 percent boost at the box office and the winner can get as much as an additional 15% boost after that.

But there's often more at stake than just box office. An Oscar win can do a lot for a studio or actor's reputation and a loss can sometimes hurt. Here are five things to be looking for at Sunday's awards ceremony that could affect the business in the coming year.

1.
George Clooney Win or Lose

Clooney used to have a film-making motto: One for them, one for me. That meant that he would do big-budget films like Ocean's Thirteen to help pay for his smaller movies like The Good German. But lately Clooney has been focusing solely on the smaller films. He had two movies this year, The Ides of March, which he directed and co-starred in, and The Descendants. The Descendants was the more successful film. It earned $144 million at the global box office and a Best Actor nomination for Clooney.

If Clooney wins on Sunday (as he's widely expected to do) that could embolden the star to keep going with the lower-budget movies. A win isn't likely to boost his upfront pay on those movies (he's already taking massive cuts to what he could earn) but he'll likely get an even larger piece of any profits from those films. The advantage of movies like The Descendants is that they have a much lower bar to hit in order to turn a profit. The budget for that film was likely under $20 million which means Clooney stands to make as much, if not more, from the film than he would have from taking a $20 million payday on a big-budget film.

2.
The Weinstein Machine

It's hard to remember that as little as two years ago Harvey Weinstein had been almost written off for dead. A string of poorly performing films, non film investments and debt were crushing his company. Now he's once again the king of awards, thanks to last year's The King's Speech which won four Oscars including Best Picture, and The Artist which is now nominated for ten awards.

The Artist was a big risk for Weinstein. The black-and-white silent film easily could have flopped with mainstream audiences. Instead the $15 million film has earned $75 million at the box office so far and it's the general favorite to win Best Picture. If Weinstein cleans up again this year with a bunch of gold statutes his status as the go-to guy for independent film will be cemented for a long time to come.

3.
The Help

The Academy had the opportunity to nominate up to 10 films this year for Best Picture but only nominated nine. The idea was to get more widely popular films onto the list but the only film that was a box office hit on the list of nominees is The Help which earned $206 million at the global box office.

There's a slim chance that the movie could clean up at the Oscars. Stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer seem likely to win in their respective categories and the film has an outside shot at Best Picture. If The Help does walk away with a bunch of statues, it will be a victory for mass-market crowd-pleasing films over artsy fare.

4.
Twitter

The social networking site is playing a bigger role than ever in predicting the Oscars this year and it's not going with the films that most pundits think will win. As I wrote the other day, analysis from USC's Innovation Lab shows that Twitter is predicting a Best Picture win for Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. Banyan Branch, a social media agency out of Seattle, is finding that The Help is getting the most love on Twitter and Facebook.

If it turns out that social media is a better predictor of Oscar winners than the pundits, some folks might find themselves out of jobs. But since the Academy voters (old, male, white) don't necessarily match up with Twitter users (younger men and women), don't count on Twitter being the smarter guy in the room this year.

5.
Billy Crystal's Ratings

This year's Oscars were supposed to be edgier with Eddie Murphy hosting and action director Brett Ratner producing. But after the duo's film Tower Heist bombed at the box office (and Ratner said, "Rehearsals are for fags") they both dropped out. Hollywood established players, Brian Grazer and Billy Crystal stepped in to put together what will likely be a much more proper show. (Sacha Baron Cohen has been discouraged from showing up in full Dictator costume).

This is the ninth time Crystal has hosted the event. Ratings for the show peaked in 1998 with 55.25 million viewers according to Horizon Media. Crystal was the host that year. Can he bring back some of that ratings magic in 2012? Although the comedian is not as popular as he was in the '90s the Oscars didn't improve things when they tried to hip the show up last year with young hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway. That ceremony drew only 38 million viewers.

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