Is the Oscar schedule too short?

Posted by · 11:48 am · February 4th, 2009

The Academy AwardsFive years ago, the Academy whittled a schedule some complained was too long down a bit, chopping off a month at the end of the process and bringing the annual Oscar ceremony into late February rather than late March.  It was something of a significant event, if you didn’t happen to be watching back then, and the question has circulated ever since: did it really help?

A bevy of reasons was dished out by the organization at the time: “It’s for the films,” “It’s for the ratings,” etc.  But a lot of folks in the industry, certainly those who cover this racket, have since belly-ached over how much of an exhausting sprint the season seems to be now.

For me, I used to hate how drawn out the process was.  It seemed to go on for too long and the next year’s crop was REALLY in our face before you knew it.  But I will admit that the new schedule has been equally problematic.  I begin to crash right around this time of year, because the entire awards schedule shifted to accommodate the Oscar move, of course.  There are a lot of shows, a lot of key dates crammed into one really tight space, one already dominated by the holiday season.  I long for the end nowadays for different reasons than before: it puts you on the verge of collapse.

Well Variety’s Tim Gray has written a piece addressing this issue.  The unsurprising verdict: he doesn’t like the shortened schedule.  I say unsurprising because an outlet that just laid off a chunk of its workforce and found itself struggling for the expected advertising revenue would like nothing more than another month of ad sales this time of year.

Here’s a taste:

The Acad said the move was to keep the honored films fresher in the minds of the public (and some of the films honored were pics from the previous summer.) But many folks hoped that the ratings would climb.

In terms of hard numbers, the move hasn’t improved the kudocast’s ratings.

And at the box office, the studios have less time to capitalize on the Oscar noms in their marketing, both domestically and overseas. The real money is not in the win. It’s in the weeks between the nominations and the awards.

Under the old timetable, there were approximately six weeks between noms and awards. Now, there are four.

There’s also a question whether the switch has affected the outcome of the awards.

Each film has its own rhythms and some argue that Halle Berry’s terrific performance in the 2001 “Monster’s Ball,” for example, would not have been seen by enough voters under the accelerated schedule.

Gray then goes on to list a few factoids that, to my mind, refute his point.  Check out the rest here.

I know one thing, though.  The last thing Fox Searchlight would want is a longer schedule.

Have your say.  Should the Academy revert back to the older, longer schedule?  Tell us in the comments section below!

→ 17 Comments Tags: , | Filed in: Daily

17 responses so far

  • 1 2-04-2009 at 12:20 pm

    michael mckay said...

    Just for us movie fans…I like the shorter schedule. Not having the telecast until March kind of killed the momentum of the nominations. It’s like the Super Bowl…the fans just want to see the damn game…and then immediately start focusing on the following season.

  • 2 2-04-2009 at 12:21 pm

    N8 said...

    I don’t think the date of the ceremony is a huge problem, but I think the deadline for nominations is much too early. voters don’t have enough time to see all the films, nor to let them sink in. What’s worse is that it allows momentarily impressive but ultimately forgettable films (cough*thereader*cough) to dupe voters into thinking they’re Best Picture worthy.

  • 3 2-04-2009 at 12:25 pm

    Chris said...

    I wouldn’t mind for various reasons:

    1. I’m European and so most films open here end of January till mid-February. “Ben Button” and “Doubt” aren’t out and my schedule hasn’t allowed me to see “Rachel Getting Married” yet. Longer season = more time to see the films for me. My studies are important and I got deadlines and there’s no way I can handle another season like this one, which would be a shame as I really like seeing as many films as I did this year.
    2. Longer season = more time to see the films for voters. I want voters to be well informed and not to nominate films sight unseen.
    3. Longer season = more time to see the films for other Academy Award viewers. If the audience knows the films that are nominated, because they’ve seen them, they’re far more likely to enjoy them.

    So: yes, Academy, go back to the old scheme of things, please.

  • 4 2-04-2009 at 12:50 pm

    michael mckay said...

    You REALLY think the voters would use the extra time to see more of the films??

    I doubt it.

    I still think films like The Reader would get the nominations anyway.

    At least in my neck of the woods, by mid-February, most all of the Oscar nominated films have already screened.

  • 5 2-04-2009 at 1:28 pm

    Homero said...

    I actually prefer this shorter schedule for one main reason: DVDs. Now we’re getting the DVDs of Oscar-bait and nominated films only weeks after the ceremony has taken place.

    When my friends come over for the Oscars and have no clue what Happy-Go-Lucky, Milk and Slumdog Millionaire are about and see that they’ve been nominated for a bunch of awards and have won a decent amount of them, they become interested in them. They are then wanting to see the film(s) and I show them the list of upcoming DVD releases and they wait in anticipation with me. I love it.

  • 6 2-04-2009 at 2:26 pm

    Henrique said...

    Benicio Del Toro was completely humiliated by the journalist.
    The actor, who has been praising Che’s “humanity”, has received some good lessons he’ll never forget…

  • 7 2-04-2009 at 2:54 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Yes, Henrique, and it was off topic the first time you’d posted. I wish I could understand it, but alas, I don’t speak Spanish, so I’ll take your word for it.

  • 8 2-04-2009 at 3:07 pm

    BBats said...

    Some counterpoints

    1; the move hasn’t helped the oscar cast. It hasn’t hurt it either. The same number of people who are interested will watch no matter when it is.

    2;the box office bump from nominations isn’t hurt by the shortened length. Most of the nominees haven’t been able to capitalize on the nominations this year because either most of the audience has found the movie (CCoBB), or the movies aren’t getting the ecstatic critical support to help push the box office (Reader) or audiences are uncomfortable with the subject matter (Reader and Milk) or the audience doesn’t care about the subject matter (young people don’t care about the Frost/Nixon thing, plus some people are turned off by the idea that fact and fiction is hard to discern b). The only movie helped by the noms is Slumdog because it is the most accessible film of the bunch.

    3; all the nominees won’t be seen myth. The members are supposed to watch all the nominees and if they don’t that is their problem. Maybe the Studios should stop back loading the year. The Academy see the films they originally nominate and then some, then they just have to catch up with the rest of the films nominated. There are only 25 different films nominated this year plus the docs and foreign and shorts (I’ll count animation and live action as 1 whole movie). So that’s 36 movies. Lets say an average Academy member has seen 15 of these. Is watching 21 movies in a month really that difficult? If it is, you shouldn’t be in the Academy in the first place.

    As a viewer and oscar watcher, leave it as it is. Why award the best film of 2008 in three months into 2009?

  • 9 2-04-2009 at 4:04 pm

    Neel Mehta said...

    The shorter season wouldn’t seem so short if the damn studios would release their films in a timely manner, rather than wimping out with late December qualifying releases.

    I thought one of the reasons the Academy made the schedule change was so that studios would fall in line and shift their releases accordingly. If I were a voter, I would penalize any film that wasn’t at least in limited release a week before Christmas.

  • 10 2-04-2009 at 7:20 pm

    Phil said...

    I have long begged that the academy revert back to the March schedule, even if it was mid march. They expect the academy to have their ballots in right after New years? Most people haven’t seen all the films — academy voters need the time and there is no reason for it to be rushed. By the time the nominations came out, only 1 of the 5 nominees was in wide release in middle america and they expect us to care about the show — they want us to watch the nominated films in less than a month when there is heavy competition for more commercial films?

    This shortened schedule also leaves no room for surprises or shocks — remember when the pianist took director, actor and I assume was so close to taking chicago for best picture — the following year they moved the awards ceremony to February.

    I hate the shortened schedule, all the awards show now cram themselves into two months and it gets to be too much. It doesn’t help the oscar nominated films either because they don’t get the buildup of the oscar nominations nor the after affect because no one sees the films.

    If they want people to care about the Oscars again, they will move it back to March and allow all of us to see the films. If we see the films, we will watch, otherwise a majority of us will not care.

  • 11 2-04-2009 at 7:25 pm

    Jesse said...

    The shortened schedule was one of the worst ideas the Academy has ever had and the ratings reflect that. The oscar schedule has forced every awards to go every week — so every week their is now an award for slumdog millionaire. they leave no room for upsets and one of the reasons they moved it was because they wanted to show their importance as the awards show to watch — but what they have created was a cramped schedule that doesn’t make the Oscars special but another awards show that will reward slumdog millionaire. I’m sure a lot of voters just vote without even seeing the films nominated and that shortened schedule makes that all the more likely.

  • 12 2-04-2009 at 9:00 pm

    Glenn said...

    Hey, don’t blame the Academy members for not being able to see the movies when studios only release them on five screens on new years eve or whatever. “No room for upsets”? That’s not the Oscars’ fault, it’s the stupid pathetic organisations and guilds that feel like they have to pander to the Academy just to appeal relevant. Because there’s one thing we need less of and it’s personal preference, apparently. Everybody MUST think “Slumdog Millionaire” is the best movie of the year, we just MUST. Ugh.

    The shorter schedule is MUCH better. It’s exhausting following this thing until March and since the March thing didn’t provide much in the land of surprises it feels unnecessary. Besides, studios aren’t going to release good movies all year long if they have to keep selling movies until April. Christ.

  • 13 2-05-2009 at 3:01 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    One word to those saying the shortened schedule leaves no room for upsets:


    Let’s face it, upsets were rare before the schedule change too. I do, however, think it’s a valid point that the old schedule perhaps allowed more time for smaller late releases to sink in: might ” The Wrestler” have done better with more time to build? Perhaps. But then it’s up to studios to release them earlier. As it stands, I’m okay with the current arrangement.

  • 14 2-05-2009 at 6:11 am

    sergio ferrer said...

    don’t get why everybody wants a longer season…

    how much longer would you all want to discuss “will he or won’t he ” with Mickey Rourke upsetting Sean Penn or the other way around, how many more weeks are we going to keep saying “kate will win, no she won’t”…

    how many more weeks does the world really need of people crying about The Dark Knight and its snubs…or about wether it will be nominated or not?

    do you all really need 4 more weeks of discussing how The Reader got nominated? Or 4 more weeks of forgetting about The Reader only to be surprised when it’s nominated? Or 4 more weeks for Harvey to milk the hell out of the movie and then nobody is surprised because “sources” have been saying for 4 more weeks that it can happen?

    Do we really need four more weeks of this:

    “rourke, langella, penn, pitt, dicaprio…no wait jenkins…no wait dicaprio, no wait RevRoad finally opened, dicaprio again, wait Eastwood the movie crossed 100mill no wait Jenkins, no wait Che finally opened, wait it sucks, no dicaprio again, no…penn wins, will it be rourke…no it’s penn…wait the wrestler made 5mill more rourke wins, wait no it’s penn”

    if a movie didn’t have enough time to build up excitement then it should’ve been released earlier, PLAIN AND SIMPLE…and people (marketing, studios, stars, fans, critics, bloggers) should keep them alive longer…

    If there’s a shorter Oscar season then release the movies earlier, that’s pretty much it. Some movie schedules don’t even make sense…I mean did Revolutionary Road really need to open like it did? With Leo, Kate and Sam as stars and director? Why a limited release? Why hide it so long?

    the Oscar season is fine like it is…

  • 15 2-05-2009 at 6:17 am

    sergio ferrer said...

    i find it amazing that people want more surprises and think it’ll happen with a longer Oscar season…

    even worse, somebody said that Slumdog wins an award every week because of the shortened season…so what? we need a longer season so the awards for Slumdog don’t pile up? so they can stretch the time and win awards less frequently?

    and what’s worse, some people here are practically saying that with a longer season, people will either grow tired of Slumdog and go elsewhere, because they will actually see the other options, or wait for the excitement for Slumdog to cool down and then people will vote for something else….that’s just ridiculous…

  • 16 2-05-2009 at 10:13 am

    Ross said...

    @ Guy Lodge,

    your argument isn’t actually quite true. The CRASH upset happened because there was time for it to happen. The 2005 Oscars took place on March 5th. And all the guilds announced their awards until early or mid-February. So from the last guild to the Oscars there was a month! Voters had time! And they USED IT IN THE WORST POSSIBLE WAY!

  • 17 2-23-2010 at 7:15 am

    stylewriter said...

    Personally, I prefer the shorter schedule. There was always this two week lag of nothing at the end and now there’s a two week lag, but at least the whole thing is over faster. Any voters complaining they don’t have enough time to see the nominated movies only demonstrate they aren’t watching them during the year. Considering so many Academy members haven’t worked in years I don’t get why it’s so hard for them.