Academy Won't Move Up Next Oscar Show; Here's Why

by Anne Thompson
June 23, 2010 8:44 AM
7 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood
Just because the topic of moving the Oscars up to January was raised at Tuesday night's board of governors meeting of the Motion Picture Academy doesn't mean that it could happen this year. It couldn't. And the Academy has issued a statement to that effect:

At the June 22 meeting of the Academy’s Board of Governors, there was discussion about moving the date of the Oscar telecast earlier.  The discussion was about the possibility of doing so no sooner  than the 84th Academy Awards, to be held in 2012.  The date for the next Oscar telecast, the 83rd, has already been announced and is firm:  February 27, 2011.
 
There are a number of questions still to be answered and challenges to be addressed with regard to moving the show to an earlier date.  The Academy Governors and staff have been and will continue to look into those questions and challenges.  No decision has been made and there is currently no timetable for when a decision might be made.  This idea is simply under consideration and being explored as a possibility.

Just start looking at the ramifications of moving the date that early and you can see why it's impossible. It was ludicrous to even suggest that they could pull it off for the coming awards season.

The eligibility issues are one thing. Some movies are eligible if they open within the calendar year. Pushing back the Oscar show to late January pushes back the nominations to late December, which pushes back the time that people would need to see the films. It's a nightmare scenario. The Academy has rules and eligibility requirements that go on for miles--the chain reaction would be huge. Distribs would have to change release dates if the awards show was pushed up to January, says Sony Pictures Classics co-president Tom Bernard. "It limits the amount of money you can benefit at the box office from an Oscar nomination. If it's at the same time as the Golden Globes, it takes the luster off of both of them. It would change everything in terms of release patterns we've had set up for quite a while."

Little movies that would qualify in late December for off-peak January wider release would be pushed into the frenetic holiday frame. Foreign countries would need to submit their films earlier, and the time to get them screened by the foreign branch would be curtailed. The Academy voters would have less time to see the movies in order to nominate them and then, again, to vote in all the categories. That would benefit the bigger high-profile movies over smaller, less branded ones. And so on. "Academy voters are already scrambling to see too many films," says Oscar campaigner Fredell Pogodin. A move up "would harm smaller films, because it would crunch the window for seeing everything. They will choose to attend the big ones before the smaller ones."

The fall film festival launch pad would also be impacted--distribs would have to consider earlier summer fests like Cannes and LAFF.

If moving up the Oscars is an ABC, ratings-motivated issue, then the Academy needs to look at what's most important. The Oscars are about honoring the film industry. It's the Academy voters' selection of the year's best. That process is the important thing, it lends credibility to what the Oscar means. So the Academy is going to rush things so the Oscar show can beat out the Golden Globes? I don't like the top-ten best picture list either. It dilutes the impact of that nomination.

The road to Oscar is paved by all the critics groups and awards shows, the Golden Globes and BAFTAs, building up to the big night. And the guild awards --SAG, PGA, DGA, WGA--should precede the Oscars as well. Any movement ahead on the calendar will just push others to push forward as well.

I suspect that the real reason AMPAS president Tom Sherak announced Oscar's 2011 producers earlier than usual was to get ahead of the game in every way. Last year's show was rushed and harried, with two producers--Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman--who were learning the ropes. Last year's Governor's Ball went very well, and Cohen and old-hand Mischer, who can do this stuff in his sleep, will give the Academy a sense of security they most certainly did not feel last year.

Here are some reactions to moving up the Oscars:
Surprisingly, David Poland likes the idea. And offers a chart proving that Oscars don't mean much at the box office these days. New York Vulture also approves of the idea, for five different reasons. Tom O'Neil on the other hand, disapproves, and rounds up Oscarologist reaction.
 

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More: Awards, Box Office, Marketing, Oscars, Winter

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7 Comments

  • Answerer | June 28, 2010 9:28 AMReply

    I know just the solution to this quandary of a dilemma:

    Who gives a fuck?

  • Duder NME | June 27, 2010 3:55 AMReply

    Switch and Pony are right. There's a anticipatory malaise regarding the awards race in general, and this preset industrialized domino stack needs to fall in order for Oscars to mean anything more than a four-hour marathon of hindsight.

  • pony | June 26, 2010 6:53 AMReply

    There's absolutely no "build up" to the Oscars, it has become more and more boring every year, watching other awards organizations try to predict the eventual Oscar nominees. If they were moved to January, they would probably start giving their awards to the people they actually believe deserve them. We haven't had diversity in film awards shows for too damn long now. Oh, and btw

    "It would change everything in terms of release patterns we’ve had set up for quite a while."

    Well good! It would be the BEST thing about moving the awards earlier: not every single god damn "awards worthy" (good/high profile/prestigious) movie would open in December/late November.

  • Victor | June 25, 2010 10:19 AMReply

    I'm against moving the Oscars to January for the very reasons stated in the article. To that I add that having the Oscars be the last film award of the year creates a build up to what has been recognized as the biggest film award even though on some ocasions I have disagreed with some of their choices.

  • Jay | June 25, 2010 4:32 AMReply

    The Academy Awards used to be in January? That's news to me...as far back as I can remember, and that's pretty far, it was always in early March...never January

  • GregR | June 24, 2010 7:22 AMReply

    What's the big deal? The Academy Awards used to be in January for a long time, and also on Monday night. Only recently did they move to Sunday and first to February and lately March.

  • switch | June 24, 2010 2:36 AMReply

    I am totally in favor of moving the Oscars to January. It's the best move they could make, really. As it stands now, we almost always know the winners before the show happens. Why is that? Because they follow a dozen other awards shows, and their voting bodies overlap. Who's gonna win best actor? Check the SAG awards. Who's gonna win best director? Check the DGA awards. The Oscars need to be ahead of as many of these award shows as possible, otherwise there's no suspense, no surprise.

    It also cuts the length of time that Oscar bloggers get to try to steer the race and cuts the time that people can manufacture scandals. (Slumdog Millionaire exploiting children, Hurt Locker disrespecting veterans, etc.) This would be bad news for Harvey Weinstein, and that's a good thing.

    It will also force smaller movies to open earlier. One of the biggest complaints from viewers about the Oscars is that most of the movies haven't even opened near them yet. This is a big problem. I'm sorry, but movies that want to ride their nominations into a theatrical release need to find a different strategy for making money. The Oscars aren't your publicists. It doesn't work and it pisses people off when half the nominees aren't technically playing yet. This is why people don't watch the Oscars as much. They have no clue what any of the nominees are about, and hence, they have nothing to root for. This is also why the ten best picture nominees was a good idea. You have to give the public a reason to watch. Otherwise the awards lose their relevancy. Yes, the Oscars should be about rewarding the best films. But they shouldn't let those films take advantage of them by playing for a weekend in LA in December, before their real release in March. They should do away with those qualifying runs altogether frankly. If you don't do a full release before the end of the year, you shouldn't be eligible. Playing for one weekend in December is bullshit and those distributors need to be called on it.

    As for voters, Academy members should be plugged in all year round. By moving the show up to January, voters will have to get more involved earlier. That's a good thing. No more waiting til December and January before they decide to start watching the movies. Voters need to take their memberships more seriously. The Academy should inform them of this as sternly as possible. If you can't be bothered to keep your eyes out all year round, then maybe you shouldn't be in the Academy.

    I really don't see how people could be against moving the awards to January. The only objections I see are coming from people with financial incentives to keep the race as long as possible, those people being bloggers who make more money by prolonging the process and distributors who try to game the system for box office benefit. Neither group has the Oscars best interests in mind.

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