Prestige and honour are all very well, but in the end what really counts for Oscar winners is the guarantee of a lucrative future - so what's in store for this year's victors?
Academy award and good-luck charm
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Colin Firth and Natalie Portman could have another reason for celebrating: winning an Oscar makes you live longer. At least, that's the extraordinary claim being made by Donald Redelmeier, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, who says that, on average, Oscar winners live for four years longer than mere nominees. Win twice and you add half a dozen years to your life expectancy.
That's even more good news for the pair, who picked up the Best Actor and Actress titles on a regal Sunday night at the Academy Awards in Hollywood. It's just the latest and probably strangest in a long list of reasons why people still get so worked up about the Oscars. But in truth, the main reason that a win is such a big deal is that it will have noticeable benefits for the bottom line - both for the film, and also for the earnings of actors and other individual winners.
The boost doesn't always come from the box office, where a Best Picture win will often have only a negligible impact. The simple reason this is so is that to be eligible for considerations for an Oscar, a film has to be released in the US by December 31, so in many cases, by the time the results are announced most people who are going to see the film will have done so already.
In box office terms, the real benefit for films comes during the five weeks between the nominations and the ceremony. The nominated films all get a big spike, and it's partly for this reason that the Academy decided last year to have 10 nominees up for Best Picture rather than just five. Often the real upside of a win will come in the home entertainment market and in sales to ancillaries such as television.
As with all rules there are exceptions, and Danny Boyle's 2009 Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire saw its US takings rise from US$98 million (Dh360m) when it won an February 22 to a very impressive total box office haul of $141m.
Even before the official announcement crowning The King's Speech, Tom Hooper's film was already likely to emerge from the awards season with the biggest benefits. In anticipation of a win, last week The Weinstein Company submitted an edited version of the film, with some of its more colourful language removed, so that it could obtain a PG-13 rating from the Classification and Rating Administration.
A rule requiring a film to be withdrawn from cinemas for 90 days before it can be replaced by an edited version was waived. With more audiences now given easier access to the film, it could be that the loss of one of the best scenes in the movie, one that no doubt helped Firth to win the Best Actor prize, will ensure that the film adds many millions to the $105m it has already grossed in the US. In other territories the movie is likely to open phenomenally, and in the UK it is moving quickly up the list of history's highest-grossing films.
For the stars, it's on the Best Actor and Actress winners that everyone's attention is focused. The career lift seems historically to be greater for men than women, who have to endure talk of the supposed curse of the Best Actress prize.
Pregnant Natalie Portman will no doubt have to put up with weeks of speculation about the trophy's reputation for predicting turmoil at home. Since the turn of the century, several winners have seen their relationships quickly fall apart. The 2001 winner Julia Roberts broke up with Benjamin Bratt soon after winning, Halle Berry and her husband Eric Benet found themselves in the divorce court, a fate that also befell 2005's Million Dollar Baby star Hilary Swank. The 2006 winner, Reese Witherspoon, split up with the actor Ryan Philllippe, while Kate Winslet and the director Sam Mendes parted after her win for The Reader. Last year, the Oscar winner Sandra Bullock's seemingly safe marriage to Jesse James ended weeks after the awards ceremony.
Expecting a baby has meant that Portman, who followed Black Swan with a number of throwaway romantic comedies, hasn't committed to any roles since Oscar talk began in earnest. No doubt her agent is rubbing his hands together because an Oscar nod definitely adds zeros to the pay packet. Some actors will have already signed contracts for their new films where the pay they receive is determined by how well they did at Sunday's ceremony. An Oscar nomination will ensure a far higher payday for an actor.
Firth is scheduled to appear in an adaptation of John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy next. But on Sunday he joked about the win being the apex of his career and other recent winners seem to bear this theory out. Sean Penn's career has dived since Milk, Forest Whitaker has done little of note since The Last King of Scotland, Philip Seymour Hoffman hasn't hit the heights of Capote again, and the same could be said of Jamie Foxx, who won for Ray in 2005, and Adrien Brody, who won in 2002 for The Pianist.
Christian Bale's Best Supporting Actor win marks the completion of his recovery following his unfortunate outburst on the set of Terminator Salvation and his arrest after an altercation with his mother at a London hotel. There has never been any doubt about the Welsh actor's immense talent and the Oscar will hopefully lead to better things than simply more Batman sequels. The Best Supporting Actress for Melissa Leo will be seen as just reward for a career that has until recently been underrated, but with her having reached an age where really good roles for women are hard to come by, it'll be a surprise if she ever wins the Best Actress prize, given the Academy's penchant for youth in that category.
The person who will benefit most from the night is the British director Tom Hooper, who beat The Social Network director David Fincher to the Best Director Oscar. Hooper was best known for his work on television, especially Longford, his film about Myra Hindley. His previous film, The Damned United, performed poorly outside the UK. Post-Oscars, he's now likely to find himself over the next few years helming the type of film usually offered to Ron Howard.