The money might be drying up in Hollywood, but there's still plenty of cash to be made in the graveyard. The 13 iconic figures on Forbes' list of the Top-Earning Dead Celebrities grossed a collective $886.5 million in the past 12 months.
Topping the list for the first time is Yves Saint Laurent, who earned $350 million care of a much-heralded estate sale. In February, auction house Christie's sold many of the French fashion icon's possessions, including expensive art, antiques and furniture, garnering $443 million in proceeds over the course of three days.
After commissions, the cash was split between the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation and a soon-to-be-created philanthropic group aimed at for scientific research and the fight against AIDS.
YSL died of brain cancer in June 2008.
Debuting on the list in third place is musician Michael Jackson. In the four months since his untimely death, the King of Pop's estate has brought in $90 million.
Though his afterlife earnings didn't land him atop the list, as many had anticipated, few celebrity deaths have garnered more media attention. Since his June passing, Jackson's estate has sold an estimated 9 million albums worldwide plus more than 5.5 million digital downloads.
Sony shelled out $60 million for the rights to produce This is It, the highly anticipated movie featuring rehearsal footage of what was to be a 50-date concert engagement at London's O2 arena.
The $60 million advance will be split between Jackson's estate and concert promoter AEG. The estate, AEG and Sony will divvy up any profits from the movie.
Merchandise created for the tour has been selling briskly online.
At No. 2, between Saint Laurent and Jackson, are Broadway legends Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. The songwriting duo, who wrote the music and lyrics to widely successful shows like Oklahoma, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music, made the bulk of their $235 million in combined earnings from the sale of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization and the rights to music they wrote together.
Royalties from other works further fattened their wallets over the course of the year.
To place on this year's list, a deceased celebrity--or "deleb," as industry insiders have dubbed them--needed to rake in at least $6 million between Oct. 1, 2008 and Oct. 1, 2009.
To compile the list, we spoke with agents, lawyers and other sources involved with a dead celebrity's estate to estimate their gross earnings (before taxes, management fees and other costs).
Behind Jackson is longtime list-topper Elvis Presley. The King of Rock 'n' Roll earned $55 million during the year-long span. That's more than some of the music industry's biggest living acts command--Bon Jovi brought in $50 million for the 12 months ending in June; Britney Spears grossed $35 million during the same period.
Unlike Jackson, Presley doesn't count music royalties among his revenue streams; his manager famously sold the rights to the King's pre-1973 recordings to RCA (now part of Sony) for $5 million. The handlers of his estate have found other means of expanding the fortune, from merchandising to admissions to Graceland.
Expect the estate's income to expand next year as Graceland celebrates Elvis' 75th birthday with new exhibits and a massive birthday celebration.