Friday, February 20, 2009

Academy Awards = Non-Profit
That Files an IRS 990

Somewhere in the back of my mind I always knew the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was a tax-exempt advocacy organization, but I never had looked at their IRS 990 filings. Until today.

With the Oscars upon us this Sunday, I just had to see what was in the academy's latest report to the IRS. Lo, lots of big numbers that would make the average social service non-profit executive director green with envy.

For FY2007 the academy reported revenue of $80 million, had $65 million in total expenses of which $20 million went for the awards TV broadcast, and paid the executive director, Bruce Davis, $490,409.

The organization had $151 million in assets at the end of the year, earned $70 for the broadcast rights, meaning the show brought in $50 million in revenue. Nice chunk of change, and don't call it profit!

And how does the academy explain the relationship of its charitable activities and how they fulfill the exempt purposes of the charity, as required by federal law?

If you think the explanation has to do with getting Oscars' viewers into theaters or shelling out bucks for DVDs, downloads and pay-per-view screening, or increasing the profit margin of the studios, all of which seem to be the prime reason for the awards and their airing on TV, you're wrong.

Let me enlighten you with the AMPAS's explanation to the IRS:

"Broadcast royalties are in connection with promoting public interest in arts and sciences [...] in connection with the Academy Awards television program, which fosters and maintains the public's interest in the art and sciences of motion pictures.

"Publications keep members of the academy and the general public informed about the arts and sciences of motion pictures, and fosters educational activities between the professional community and the public-at-large.

"Theater operations provide a common forum and meeting ground for various branches and crafts, and keeps members of the academy informed about the arts and sciences of motion pictures.

"Membership dues are received in exchange for benefits provided to members."
Promoting public interest, such a noble endeavor, wouldn't you say, like working to eradicate landmines or discover the cure for HIV/AIDS. I'll be thinking of the public interest as I watch all the glamourpusses walk the red carpet or scurry to the stage to accept a statutette.

Otherwise, I'll be rooting for Werner Herzog to win for his documentary "Encounters at the End of the World."

Click here to read the current IRS filing from the academy.

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