AMPAS brass debating moving Oscars to January?

Posted by · 9:54 pm · June 22nd, 2010

That’s what Nikki Finke is reporting tonight (in the midst of further outlandish bitching about AMPAS executive director Bruce Davis), just hours after a new producer and director were tapped for the ceremony.  And it’s obviously a major decision with a lot of moving parts, but let’s consider this.

First and foremost, it’s the drum I’ve been banging since the Academy began to get scared about ratings.  Quick fix ideas like adding an animated feature film category nine years ago and, of course, beefing up the Best Picture category to 10 nominees have been attempts at opening the door for popular or blockbuster fare.  The thinking has been, if popular films are nominated, more people will watch the show.

But that logic has always been flawed at best, a leap of faith that doesn’t address the real reason audiences don’t seem interested in tuning in every March: awards show fatigue.

Not to belabor a point, but again, by the time the Oscars roll around every year, they’ve already been preempted by the Golden Globes, the ever-expanding Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, three nationally televised, red carpeted kudofests.  The Oscars feel stale, like an afterthought, when they should feel like the gold standard.  The only real answer has always been to get a jump on the stiff competition that has developed in the last decade or so.  Hey, Meryl Streep gets it!

Of course, this is where we get into all that machinery.  A year in cinema has come to reflect a certain paradigm, with no man’s lands for dumped off product, counter-programming considerations in the summer and, of course, prestige, potential awards product at the end of the season.  But while it has become frustrating that the year is so backloaded in that fashion, it has also made a lot of sense if the industry is meant to have an informed vote.  March is barely enough time to get through all of the films as far as voters working in the industry are concerned.  You can argue that it’s plenty of time all you want, but you would show an ignorance to the realities of production life in the process.

A move such as this would obviously force the studios’ hand.  The calendar would have to take on a whole different philosophy.  Prestige films would have to be more carefully scattered throughout the year, perhaps finding some room in the mid-to-late summer.  Latter year film festivals in Telluride, Venice and Toronto would no longer instigate awards buzz so much as validate (or invalidate) it, to say nothing of Santa Barbara, which hits in late January and is a key stop for Oscar hopefuls the week after nominations are announced.

Then there’s the issue of studio awards budgets, which are pretty much in place and, if the decision is made to do this for the upcoming telecast, they’d have to be firmed up even quicker, strategies put together fast.  Any Oscar consultants currently on vacation?  You might want to hop on the next flight out (if it were to go through, of course).

Make no mistake, the whole scheme of things would change shape.  But the bottom line is: the Oscars would get the eyeballs, before they’re tired and watery and irritated by the parade of awards shows scattered throughout the fall and early winter.  If you want a spike in ratings, my humble opinion is, this is how you do it.  Enough piecemeal fixes.  If it’s time for change, it’s time for CHANGE.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below.  And now is as good a time as any to launch a new poll, so tell us what you think of this possibility in the right sidebar.

→ 58 Comments Tags: , | Filed in: Daily

58 responses so far

  • 1 6-23-2010 at 2:37 pm

    MovieMan said...

    Since I sincerely do not understand the logic of the system of nomination announcements (or at least the publicity of them, which doesn’t NEED to be so long before the show), here are my thoughts for specifically next year:

    Announce the nominations for the Golden Globes on January 2. Broadcast the show on January 8.

    Announce the nominations for the Screen Actors Guild on January 9. Broadcast the show on January 15

    Announce the nominations for the Critic’s Choice Awards on January 16. Broadcast the show on January 22.

    Announce the nominations for the Academy Awards on January 23. Broadcast the show on January 29.

    SIMPLE. All of them are Saturdays. All of them are available. It’s a week between each, so online predictions could have time to heat up between each. And if there is some legal problem, well, they’ve already changed so much, why not change the process of nomination announcements entirely and encourage the other televised award show producers to do the same. Again, nominations don’t HAVE to be announced a month and a half in advance. The ballots could be sent out at any point in time, and then the public announcement of what choices there are could be given just before the show.

  • 2 6-23-2010 at 2:38 pm

    MovieMan said...

    Oh and Oscar screeners are sent out throughout the month of December and could still be sent out before the announcement date.

    Again, it seems so simple…

  • 3 6-23-2010 at 3:50 pm

    Aaron said...

    All of you are crazy who want the BFCAs, GGs, SAGs, and Oscars broadcast in January…that’s every single weekend in January booked for an award show….talk about condensed! The Academy is turning into a ratings craving monster. Call me naive, but when did the Oscars stop being about the films? God, next year they’ll expand the picture field to 20 nominees and maybe, just MAYBE, a Miley Cyrus film will be nominated!

  • 4 6-23-2010 at 3:56 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    Movieman, one week is definitely not enough time between nominations and the awards. I don’t think that is even enough time to vote and then tally the votes let alone actually watch the nominated films.

    I don’t think having it on a Saturday night would help either. People go out Saturday night that might otherwise stay at home and watch the Oscars on a Sunday because it’s a work night.

    Bottom line is this thing needs to be earlier. Kris is completely right about awards fatigue. How many months do we need to discuss the inevitable (hurt locker, bridges, bullock, waltz, monique). I feel like when the winners are known for that long in advance it is time for a change.

  • 5 6-23-2010 at 4:42 pm

    MovieMan said...

    No, what I was saying was having the nominations PUBLICALLY announced a week before, but that doesn’t mean that Academy members can’t already be given the nominated films to watch before that weeks. It just doesn’t need to be a month and a half between televised announcement and Oscarcast (or Globe-, SAG-, and Criticscasts). The voting/tallying/viewing process for each of them can be done within the month before that period. I wasn’t saying wait the entire time and then squeeze it into a week. Decisions can be made way beforehand.

  • 6 6-23-2010 at 4:46 pm

    MovieMan said...

    To put it more succinctly…

    Public announcement of nominees does not equal private Academy-wide announcement and decision-making of nominees. Heck, the winners could already have been decided (they obviously are anyway) before the nominees are televised.

  • 7 6-23-2010 at 5:31 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    I am pretty sure that process could and would lead to a leak of the winners at some point.

  • 8 6-23-2010 at 9:32 pm

    Glenn said...

    Putting the awards on a Saturday? Since they are quite desperately courting young viewers, putting them on a Saturday would be ridiculous.