July 21st, 2010

something for nothing

I was curious as to how much money actors and directors make in Hollywood simply out of royalties alone. The royalty percentages are apparently quite tightly regulated by unions.

I found a rather tidy and enlightening summary of the history of royalties (or “residuals”) in American radio, tv and cinema. A snippet:

“The first broadcasting residuals were paid in 1941, and concerned the medium of radio. Radio performers would perform the show twice (once for the Eastern time zone, then again for Pacific time zone). When ways were found to record the first performance and broadcast it a second time, the union of radio performers (AFRA, American Federation of Radio Performers) insisted on the payment of residuals.”

More at Google Answers: History of Actor Royalties/Residuals.

And for some insight into what these percentages actually mean to the likes of Stephen Spielberg and Daniel Radcliffe, there follows below a list of the 40 top earners in Hollywood from last year (2009). Snip:

Stephen Spielberg
Estimated 2009 earnings: $85 million

-$50 million: Universal theme-park royalties and consulting fees (ongoing deal signed in 1987)
-$20 million: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (fee for producing and directing upcoming 2011 release)
-$10 million: Other back-end revenue, royalties from older films
-$5 million: Transformers: R.O.T.F. (back end as executive producer)

The numbers are dizzying. I imagine him forgetting entire projects that are still pumping millions into his reservoir of income! And he’s not even number 1 on the list.

Vanity Fair Top Hollywood Earners.

(Image: Tom Hanks in Catch Me if You Can [Spielberg, 2002])


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