A five-day-old piece over at Screen Rant by Adam Bentz suggests that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is planning a few fixes to solve the problems of the catastrophic ratings dip not just from last year, but from the past four years. His piece is from Matthew Belloni’s newsletter, What I’m Hearing. From Screenrant, according to Belloni:
The Academy’s board of governors won’t meet until next month, but he’s hearing that several awards categories, such as the short films, will be presented either before the show or during commercial breaks, with a brief acknowledgment during the main broadcast.
Additional changes will be made in an attempt to make the Oscars more of a celebration of film and less about specific films competing against each other for awards. Belloni cites the “increasingly niche tastes of Academy members” as the reason most people haven’t seen the films up for awards.
I’ve been writing about this in long-winded fashion for months now, so I thought I’d ask the smartest people who cover entertainment from different perspectives what they think. A few of them questioned the story itself — is it based on anything real? Are they really considering making these changes?
Indeed, no one can say the Oscars aren’t struggling to survive. The number of people who watch the Oscars has been on a slow decline since around 2014. But after 2016, it really began to drop. On the one hand, “they” don’t really care that much about ratings. On the other hand, they do. Things have never been quite this bad in the 20 years I’ve been covering them. The movies exist in a tiny bubble within a tiny bubble. Hollywood has gone on all in with big-budget international hits and television/streaming is wiping up the floor with the film industry in terms of storytelling. The Oscars will either have to adapt or find their home on cable, and not on network television or, say, on Netflix or HBO.
I sent out four questions to the best and the brightest. Their opinions differ across the spectrum and I think they’re all worth consideration.
Those participating in alphabetical order:
Ryan Adams, AwardsDaily
Erik Anderson, AwardsWatch
Marshall Flores, AwardsDaily
Jalal Haddad, AwardsDaily
Pete Hammond, Deadline
Pete Howell, The Toronto Star
Mark Johnson, AwardsDaily
Megan McLachlan, AwardsDaily
Joey Moser, AwardsDaily
Clarence Moye, AwardsDaily
Matt Neglia, Next Best Picture
Tom O’Neil, Gold Derby
David Phillips, AwardsDaily
David Poland, Movie City News
Richard Rushfield, The Ankler
Jazz Tangcay, Variety
Anne Thompson, Indiewire
Christian Toto, Hollywood in Toto
Susan Wloszczyna, Gold Derby
Glenn Zoller, Producer
1. Do you think getting rid of the shorts or having awards off camera is a good idea and one that will help ratings?
Adams: It’s a rotten idea to rob the short film Oscar winners of their 45 seconds in the spotlight. All true movie lovers agree that the short films never fail to be imaginative, emotional, and thought-provoking films—often on topics that mainstream movies are scared to touch. Since the speeches of those Oscar winners necessarily reflect their own provocative films, their speeches are unpredictable and equally provocative, and it’s cowardly for the Academy to preemptively censor what the winners may say. The main problem with the short film categories is that 35 million home viewers have no way to feel invested in them. It would be great if the weekend before Oscar Night, all the short films could be collected and broadcast so more people could see how fascinating they are, and then have their own opinions about which are “the best.” I’m disgusted that the Academy thinks the best way to jack up ratings is to constantly chip away at Academy history, to dilute the Oscar legacy that lifelong Oscar-lovers grew up with. Same way it saddened me when they made a similar decision to cut the honorary and lifetime achievement Oscars from the broadcast. To be replaced with what? Seth McFarlane doing a 7-minute song about actresses’s tits?
Anderson: Coming from a purist’s perspective, I definitely don’t think it’s a good idea. I’m not just a purist about showing all awards but the shorts often provide the most accessible place for a young filmmaker to begin their career and seeing recognition of short films and how winners here can often go from there to bigger projects is incredibly motivational. Seeing is possibility and sometimes people need to see that they can do something before doing it.
Flores: I strongly believe removing the shorts categories is not a good idea, and it would not significantly improve ratings. Shorts are not an inferior form of the film medium, and as someone who watches all of the nominated shorts on a yearly basis, they consistently depict a wide variety of stories and narratives, and are told and crafted by a very diverse group of filmmakers from around the world. They certainly deserve their moment on camera and on the Dolby stage like everything and everyone else nominated for Oscars. Likewise, I do not believe moving some awards off-camera (e.g., crafts categories) in the effort to shorten and streamline the Oscars ceremony would make a significant impact on ratings. For the most part, I don’t believe there’s a direct correlation between ceremony length and viewership: for example, the 2021 SAG Awards were a pre-recorded, hour-long affair, and that format failed to stop a 50% drop in viewership from 2020. I think audiences care much more about being engaged by what they watch than by mere runtime, and there are always opportunities to present below-the-line categories in such a way that engages audiences and gets them to appreciate and care about the craft of filmmaking.
Haddad: Whenever there is a discussion about ratings it seems like The Academy wants to put the focus and blame on below-the-line awards especially the shorts. I find it incredibly disrespectful to filmmakers but more so I think it proves that the “higher-ups” within the Academy have no clue what they are doing. When the average American is deciding whether or not they want to tune in I don’t believe for a second they take things like these categories into consideration. If anything these shorts can be an exciting thing. The last couple of years have shown that the shorts do extremely well at the box office leading up to the Oscars. They should embrace the moderate box office success of these shorts.
Hammond: No. Bill Condon suggested the exact thing when he produced and it was shot down by the Board. However, that was a different Board but the Governors know it is a slippery slope and they could be next. I believe AMPAS knew what was coming with the 93rd Oscars and was prepared. They should avoid acting hastily. The fewer categories you have on the show, the fewer starry presenters with designer gowns etc. Bottom line is Oscars aren’t Globes or SAG with tons of performer categories. They have exactly four. Deal with it. The 93rd show had a chance to be all about movies, and show off clips old and new, and they blew it. That is what they need to emphasize and hope the voters don’t screw them up with esoteric choices influenced by snooty critics.
Howell: I don’t think shorts should be dropped or categories should be off-camera. But I do think the Academy could take the bold step of having just one Best Short Film category and one Best Screenplay category, combining similar categories the way they did with the sound awards last year (which was a very good thing.) This would make the short film and screenplay categories more competitive and more interesting, and make the awards broadcast shorter.
Johnson: I’ve long wished that the Shorts were handed out at the Scientific and Technical Awards ceremony, and that the Academy could bring the lifetime achievement recipients back to the ceremony in their place. Other than that, I am strongly against handing out awards off camera. I have just as much interest in what wins the crafts as I do the above-the-line awards. I’d imagine most Oscar fans feel the same.
McLachlan: I think it’s a terrible idea, because the Oscars are about celebrating all artists, not just the most popular categories.
Moser: I never think eliminating exposure to an unfamiliar title–be it the shorts or docs or international features–is a good idea. The shorts are a nice break in the main categories and, on a competitive front, add some spice to predicting the Oscars. A short film may not be seen by as many eyes as something like The Irishman or 1917, but taking that exposure away from people doesn’t help anything, in my eyes. The more variety the better.
Moye: No, I do not believe removing less popular categories will impact ratings at all. It’s all about the films and people nominated in the marquee categories. People watched the Oscars for years with much higher ratings, and those ceremonies even included the humanitarian awards. They relegated those to a special ceremony, and the ratings still went down. It’s not about the categories. It’s about the films nominated. Honestly, I’m thinking the ship has already sailed.
O’Neil: Frankly, I don’t believe the Oscars can get away with bestowing the ‘lesser’ awards during TV commercial breaks, then just tell us viewers afterward who won, then show us a brief clip of their acceptance speech. Sure, the Tony Awards started doing that just a few years ago and they got surprisingly little blowback. Even some compliments.
But the Tonys are not the Oscars — those two awards have vastly different bureaucracies that make these decisions on their own. Let’s be honest. The Tonys are really run by the big Broadway producers who don’t give a damn if someone doles out the music composition award during TV commercials.
But the Oscars, like the Emmys, have to deal with giant boards of governors, academy peer-group branches and their hugely powerful guilds. Just go ahead and see what happens if you try to push the music composition Oscar category off into a commercial break. Of course, the music guild’s lawyers would immediately email the Oscars to tell them they are not be permitted to use any music on the Oscar telecast that was written by a guild member. Dead or alive. Doesn’t matter. That basically means you can’t use any music, period.
If you try to boot off those shorts categories, that means you have just declared war on the prestigious members of the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch of the Academy, who will enlist the formidable support of the International Animated Film Association, plus Disney and all other animation studios. Short Films are a protected class because so many Hollywood honchos started out making short films. The category is a sentimental fave within the academy, which is especially proud of how many of its own past interns and student grant and scholarship recipients went on to be nominated and win.
Meantime, over at the Television Academy, you should see the holy hell that Emmy chiefs have to endure to put on their award shows. They have four of them — the main telecast, airing this Sept. 19 on CBS — plus three other ceremonies for presentation of the Creative Arts (about 100 additional Emmy categories). Everybody wants to be on the main show, of course, so the Emmys try to keep the guilds happy by delicately negotiating with them to accept a rotation system. This year the Emmys got in a real pickle, though, because they had to fight hard to make room for a category few people ever care about: Best Variety Special. But this year that obscure category pits the “‘Friends’ Reunion” against “Hamilton.” The Emmys couldn’t forfeit all those superstars, so something had to move off the main show to make room. Guess what lost out. Best TV Movie got shoved off to one of the Creative Arts shows. Remember the days when that was considered one of the top categories? I wonder how many guilds, producers, networks, etc., behind the TV Movies had to agree to the switch? And how did the TV Academy get them to agree?
Basically, everybody who bitches about the Oscars being too long and that those short categories should be buried behind TV commercials should just shut up. The Oscars are the Super Bowl of showbiz and so they’re allowed to be just as long and boring as the sports version often is. Both events are really just social occasions when most of the people gathered aren’t even paying attention to the TV. Everybody’s too busy getting drunk or getting into fights over the last few scoops of Aunt Gilda’s secret onion dip. Or both.
Yeah, really, just shut up already. The Oscars are also the High Holy Event of Hollywood every year and, remember, church is actually meant to be boring. It’s good for the soul.
Neglia: I don’t think it is a good idea. I believe the Oscars are a great American tradition and those traditions of honoring the best in film should be kept on air, whether the show is three hours or two hours long. I don’t believe the pre-announcement of such a move would encourage viewers to watch. “Oh, the shorts won’t be shown on the telecast this year. Maybe I’ll watch.” No one thinks like that.
Phillips: Doing it during commercial breaks is just insulting. It would be better to move them to the other awards service the day before. At least no one will be selling Doritos during their speeches.
Poland: The reason why giving specific awards off-screen is not one of preference. It’s the bylaws. The smaller branches vote together to protect one another. That is why the year they tried it, the categories that were done that were were “random.” The bylaws aren’t changing. Non-issue. And if they did, it would have zero effect on ratings anyway. It’s not the 2:45 – 3:30 that is the problem.
Rushfield: This show is entering death spiral territory, so it’s time for tough choices. And frankly its probably too late for them to make much difference. At this point, I imagine the die is cast and the demographic trends are going to play themselves out.
But given that the stark choice is – face a world where the cratering of the Oscar audience continues apace and accept that in 3 – 5 years, there will be an audience of 3- 5 million, making this a little niche event..
Or try and a hail mary, which involves making a show that people would be excited to watch. And nowhere in the definition of “show people want to watch” will you find, listening to speeches by film nerds who have made a six minute short thanking their backers and crew.
Tangcay: Don’t put the smaller awards outside of the main ceremony. It’s so disrespectful. Honor the short films, honor original song, honor editing, honor it all. The Oscars are films/Hollywood’s biggest night, why take that away for ratings? For a shorter show?
Thompson: There’s been pressure from ABC to improve ratings by moving away some of the least-watched categories, but there will be blowback if they try, as they learned last time. But they are under increased ABC pressure now.
Toto: It’s an acknowledgment that the show is too long, but I don’t think it will have a noticeable impact on the ratings.
Wloszczyna: Perhaps, but the Oscars have the fewest categories of almost any of the other big-league awards shows. Cutting 10 minutes or so isn’t going to make the show that much shorter.
Zoller: Short filmmakers speeches sometimes are the ones adding unexpected highlights. Not sure if I’d miss it tho. I like rewarding them on camera personally. It is an even 10 this year though.
2) Why do you suppose the ratings have dropped so dramatically since 2014?
Adams: First we have to quit thinking there’s one major reason, one primary problem, or one easy solution. When 20 million people stop watching the Oscars, we can bet they have hundreds of different reasons. We all know the standard legitimate causes: The enormous number of alternatives people now have to spend 3 hours looking at a screen is one of those reasons. As boring as it is to hear the moaning about Oscar ratings, it’s by now equally boring to point out that the SuperBowl has lost 20% of its audience over the same time span that the Oscars have been in decline.
But I’ll say it again anyway since it proves a point: the Oscars and the Super Bowl didn’t do anything wrong to lose 20 million viewers, and there’s not a lot they can do to ever regain those peak-year ratings. Those days are over and done with. Get over it, adjust to the new reality, and get on with it. I truly do think that viewers who abandoned the Oscars were never too interested in movies as an art form anyway, so why try to woo those mooks back? Especially if the bait to lure back people who lost interest will result in infuriating and alienating Oscar’s core group of loyalists.
Finally, much as I hate to say (since I’m loathe to drag politics into it) when republicans like Trump spend the past 10 years mocking Hollywood and rightwing cranks spend decades fear-mongering about the mythical liberal agenda, why the heck would we not expect to see 10 or 15 million republican viewers stop watching? A huge number of those people that have abandoned the Oscars would rather sit in the dark on Oscar Night rather than risk seeing any LGBTQ Oscar winners thank their partners for their love and support. Why do we even want those people watching the Oscars with us?
Do I have any proof for my suspicions? Well, only circumstantial, but there’s this: What was the very first year that Oscar ratings plummeted from the 40 million range to the 30 million range? It was 2003, the year after Denzel and Halle won, that’s when. And what other shift in the Oscars coincided precisely with the steady decline in viewers? The decline began right after movies like Brokeback Mountain and Milk and Dallas Buyers Club started winning major awards, that’s when. So those changes that caused the Oscars to lose wrongheaded viewers were not anything the Oscars did wrong. Those viewers stopped watching when the Oscars began doing things right. It was the new era of embracive progress that upset several million viewers. How’s that for a theory?
Tell you what, I’m quite tired of hearing that the Oscar voters and all of us loyal Oscar lovers are too liberal and therefore out of touch with “real Americans.” All the Americans ever nominated for an Oscar are real Americans. The 30 million people who still watch the Oscars are real Americans. All the Oscar lovers on this site are real Americans. Besides, Oscar voters are far from being a monolithic bastion of the “liberal elite.” Does nobody remember the night Michael Moore was booed off the stage for talking about the topic of the movie he won for?
In a bygone era, a lot of us here used to throw Oscar parties. Remember those days? When we had those parties, did we ever look around the room in our homes, and say: “Nice enough crowd, but I wish there had been some way to attract more guests who get offended by seeing gay people and people of color win Oscars. Too bad more people didn’t show up at my party who are sick of seeing a diverse mix of proudly outspoken Oscar winners.” Nope. It would be absurd to wish for something like that, right?
Anderson: Obviously the easiest answer is the age of streaming and that how we consume television has changed exponentially in the last 5-7 years. Even when the Oscars have huge blockbusters like in 2018 it doesn’t draw people back in the way something like Titanic did in 1997. Each new generation seems to ‘need’ the Oscars less and longer seasons only make them less appealing. Too many televised awards shows on the path to the Oscars makes fringe fans feel they’ve already seen them or forget that they’re still months away. But, to counter what I said earlier a bit, if the Oscars are like the Super Bowl then you have to have a team to root for. With so many films having limited runs or not being readily available when all of the nominations and awards are being handed out, why would you care? Films need to be seen for an audience to care enough to tune in to the Oscars. And even then, that’s not an accurate science.
Flores: There are many possible answers to this, e.g. the stronger divergence between what audiences are watching in theaters and what films are pushed to the top of voters’ piles as a result of the awards season gauntlet, a generational shift where younger audiences aren’t as enthralled by movie stars and the glitz/glamour the Oscars and other awards shows represent, a structural shift where more and more people prefer the relatively ad-less content on streaming services than what’s shown on broadcast and cable TV, and general awards show fatigue. I do believe there are still steps the Academy can make to reengage general audiences and broaden the appeal of the Oscars once again, but I also do believe that the TV viewing landscape has significantly changed, and to an extent we have to adapt our expectations and traditional viewership models to this new normal.
Haddad: I think arguing about how to improve the ceremony is ultimately a losing game. Over the past decade, ratings have gone down for almost everything besides sports. Drastically retooling the ceremony won’t change that. The truth is culture has shifted and with that there are many factors that the Academy will never be able to change. Younger generations don’t subscribe to cable at the same rate that their parents did. There’s also a lot more content out there that the ceremony has to compete with and audiences have more choices than ever.
What the Academy CAN change is how they market the show and speak to the general public. I’ve noticed that over the past couple years those closest to me had no idea when the Oscars were happening until they were literally airing. They need more modern ways of advertising themselves. I don’t think the types of films nominated make a difference either. I know a lot of people outside our bubble that want to see these films, they just don’t have the time. And in some of these years the ceremony happens so quickly that by the time they know what is nominated they haven’t had a chance to see more than one or two films.
With the internet and social media it’s also not necessary to watch the actual ceremony while still being engaged. Take this year for example, I was not able to watch in a traditional way like I normally do and at first I was heartbroken. Instead I could only access the aspects of the ceremony in real time through Twitter. Ultimately I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. I found out who won in real time, I saw the most important clips online, and I was still able to be a part of the online discourse.
Also, I don’t think expanding the ceremony to be a celebration of film is a bad thing. I’m sure ABC / Disney will want to find ways to celebrate their films that surely won’t be nominated. I’m all for honoring the industry in as many ways as possible, not just the films that are actually nominated. I just hope that they don’t disrespect the filmmakers in the process and I hope they don’t disrespect those of us that are passionate about the Oscars either.
Hammond: There are other increasingly used ways to consume awards shows, particularly in social media, and it is ALWAYS about the movies and a rooting interest. That just hasn’t been there. Do you think viewers were tuning in to see if Roma wins?
Howell: Oscar ratings have dropped because there are too many other distractions, period. Eyeballs are drifting away from movies to streaming services. The most talked-about entertainment attraction this past summer wasn’t a blockbuster movie, it was HBO’s “The White Lotus.” But how does the Academy address this situation? I have to admit I don’t know.
Johnson: This generation seems to prefer shorter things: movie reviews on Twitter, TV over movies, 7-inning baseball games, etc. The vibe I get from my kids and their friends is “why read the book when you can glance at the CliffsNotes?”
McLachlan: I think ratings have dropped off with the rise of social media and having the ability to watch through many mediums. You can keep track of who’s winning on Twitter instead of watching and sometimes it’s more enjoyable to see what people are saying.
Moser: Our attention spans have changed drastically in the last ten years. I think the rise of Twitter and social media makes people realize that they can choose what they like as a Best Picture or a Best Actor. It doesn’t matter if The Academy thinks Jean Dejardin is their choice because MYYYY choice is someone else. I don’t know if I agree that the idea of the Oscars is “too traditional” because more people are drawn to the history of the Oscars every year.
Moye: The filmmaking industry has become increasingly corporate. Studio films (ie popular films) are pressured to turn huge profits, so studios are banking on known properties/known quantities to get people into the theater. To buy their product. That kind of known property is rarely what The Academy looks to recognize with Oscars. Black Panther was essentially a unicorn – it was a massive money maker and was nominated for Best Picture. The Academy would have to give an Oscar to something like Black Panther (beloved critically and by audiences) to start stemming the ratings slide.
Neglia: Political division within our country and the rise of digital media. With half the population being led to believe the Hollywood industry represents the far-left liberal media and that belief running parallel to the rise of Donald Trump, it’s no wonder why so many people turned on the Oscars. I also believe last year’s ratings were an anomaly due to the pandemic and I expect we’ll see them go up this year. However, the days of people gathering around their television sets to watch an event such as the Oscars are long over. The Super Bowl doesn’t get the same numbers it used to. Nothing does anymore! Streaming and the rise of digital media has trained our minds to watch clips the following night or read the results online, rather than set our attention spans for three hours to watch something at a specific time.
Phillips: Fractured viewing habits, too much inside baseball, and maybe awards are just not that important to younger people.
Poland: The Academy hasn’t adjusted to the speed of the world. Waiting 2 months plus after the end of the year is not a way to maintain audience interest in an endlessly moving world of input. Plus, all award shows have been marginalized. They just aren’t as exciting as they were. A huge part of that is daily access and promo of movies, talent, etc… constant contact means there is no crescendo… not THE dress, but another dress. The pretentiousness and history of Oscar is its special power… but The Academy hasn’t exploited that in a very long time. The Governor’s Awards being cut is exactly the wrong direction.. yes… not everyone knows the old people, but it is the elegant, intense tradition that keeps the ratings better than anyone else, even if those numbers still suck.
Rushfield: A few of the top reasons:
The sector became bloated and self-important, glutted on a 8-month long season.
They rested on an ancient creaky format that in every way is at odds with the entire drift of the culture.
Hollywood stopped minting new stars that people were excited to see.
The ones that did come along, we see far too much of already via social media, etc. Glamour requires some level of scarcity. Instead we’ve flooded the market with them.
The stars when they were up there had became a bunch of pompous bores. Take a creaky old format, and throw in a bunch of fantastically rich people scolding their audience – and you’ve got a formula to chase audiences away in droves.
But most of all, above all else, it’s a race between a bunch of movies that very few people have even heard of, let alone seen. Who is going to watch a race between some movies they’ve never heard of?
I think in the end, if they can’t figure out how to address that last problem, then no other fix is going to make any difference.
Toto: Seeing stars on TV is no longer novel. We see them everywhere, read their Tweets and catch them on talk shows every night. The thrill is mostly gone. The movies being honored are more niche-oriented and lack mass appeal. Hollywood stars are increasingly political and ugly about it, which makes watching them win awards less appealing to half the country. The show is no longer fun and entertaining. It’s a sanctimonious slog, a series of lectures and virtue signaling that forgets to honor films first and foremost. Plus, the speeches are self-serving and political when they should be heartfelt and raw.
Wloszczyna: Take a gander at the films that were competing in the Best Picture category. Most of them were quite stellar with veteran directors at the top of their abilities while featuring approachable subjects for the average moviegoer. It was the year of the McConaissance for one, with most of Matthew McConaughey’s fans rooting for him to win for Dallas Buyers Club. Meanwhile, Leonardo DiCaprio gave an exceedingly rare and delightful comic performance in The Wolf of Wall Street. Meanwhile, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity was a stellar 3-D achievement both visually and emotionally. David O. Russell’s American Hustle also hit the mark with viewers even if it didn’t win any of its 10 nominations.
As for the Best Picture winner, the choice of 12 Years as a Slave was a savvy one. Meanwhile, allegations made by Woody Allen’s adopted daughter Dylan Farrow, who claimed he molested her, couldn’t stop Cate Blanchett from winning Best Actress for Blue Jasmine, as a once rich woman who has fallen on hard times. Other contenders such as Spike Jones’s Her, Stephen Frears’s Philomena and Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips were all examples of filmmakers at the top of their game.
It also didn’t hurt that the wildly popular animated feature Frozen also took the prize as well as best song. Even the winning doc 20 Feet From Stardom was highly watchable.
Zoller: Competition from other sectors. Show is unpredictable and unruly -often too long. Movie Stars are competing you YouTube and TikTok stars? Reality TV is more interesting than reality?
3) Do you think bringing back a host would help boost ratings?
Adams: I don’t care whether there’s a host or not. Everyone who’s ever watched the Oscars knows that the host does a 12-minute stand-up routine at the beginning of the show and then that host virtually disappears for the rest of the evening. If there are people that tune in to see the host, then millions of them will tune out as soon as the host finishes his intro. Sure, there are Oscar hosts whose intro monologues get millions of YouTube views for years. And so? That doesn’t translate to this fixation on ratings for the reminder of the show during the actual broadcast. My own unpopular opinion: As funny as Ricky Gervais may or may not be, the last thing I personally want to see on Oscar Night, to introduce a celebration of brilliant filmmakers, is someone whose whole entire shtick is his disdain for Hollywood, someone who panders to Hollywood-haters by mocking awards. And another unpopular opinion is this: anyone who tunes in lusting to see someone like Ricky Gervais piss all over the brilliant filmmakers in the front row is not watching the Oscars because they respect and appreciate those same filmmakers. I doubt if those viewers will keep watching as soon as Gervaid collects his $5 million for 12 minutes work and then vanishes for the next 3 hours. In fact, why should they watch at all, when they can just wait a couple of hours and see a notorious insult-comic over and over again on youtube without all the Oscar stuff attached?
What makes me think a host makes not a lot of difference to Oscar ratings? One year the Oscars had 33 million viewers, and another year the ratings tanked and only got 26 million viewers. Both those years Jimmy Kimmel hosted. So that’s the magical elixir of an Oscar host: It’s snake oil.
Anderson: I think it could help but it would have to be someone like Dwayne Johnson, who is largely unproblematic and universally liked. But, above all, they have to LOVE the Oscars. LOVE them. It’s why Whoopi Goldberg was such a great host.
Flores: I think a broadly engaging, charming host who can keep audiences entertained while also helping to keep the show at an efficient pace would certainly help boost ratings. A host that doesn’t alienate people politically and has a real love of what the Oscars are supposed to be about would also be big pluses. And there are a number of hosts who can feasibly check all those boxes. However, since we live in a much more regressively Puritanical, crowd-judgemental age online, finding a host that has an immaculate record of not saying something that pissed someone off at some point is a very tall task – not many people want to be under that (ridiculous) type of scrutiny, and nor should they.
Haddad: I do think it is time to bring back a host. Although people online tend to think the show runs smoother without I do think a host is a powerful marketing tool. I miss the days of Whoopi and I think there are people who can fill those shoes. Tiffany Haddish would be perfect. I might be in the minority on this but I also think Kevin Hart deserves a second chance and I think he would be an incredible host both in terms of creative material and the ability to draw in a bigger audience.
Hammond: Couldn’t hurt.
Howell: Bringing back a host could improve ratings, if it was a charismatic cross-generational draw like Dwayne Johnson, whom I think would be great in the gig. But if it’s a talk show host like Jimmy Fallon or Ellen DeGeneres, not so much.
Johnson: Depends on the host. I realized at Telluride that you can boost your likes by hashtagging Kristen Stewart or Jamie Dornan no matter what the hell you are tweeting about. Get that pair to host – or better yet KStew and Robert Pattinson – and I’d bet the house on the highest ratings the show has ever seen.
McLachlan: I do think that bringing back a host would help. The first time without a host was great, but in a post-pandemic era, I think we’re going to need a little coddled and have someone to take us along with them, to provide commentary.
Moser: Being the Oscars host looks like the worst job in town. Once you get hired, you are judged until the next host is picked. I haven’t missed it.
Moye: Sure, a celebrity host could help ratings by a small margin. I don’t think it would increase by millions, but the lack of a host sends the signal that the ship doesn’t have a captain. I think audiences who love the Oscars historically (I’m not talking about Oscar watchers) probably fondly remember the glory days of Billy Crystal for example. But I don’t think it would result in a massive spike.
Neglia: It could, depending on who they get but the problem is, no one wants to do it the way the Academy wants them to do it.
Phillips: Possibly. All depends on the host.
Poland: Host is a minor issue. Do what is best for the show. The problem is, no one they really want to do it ever really wants to do it. Nothing has changed that. So you can’t get the hottest names. And unless you commit to someone who will really make it their one over 3 or 4 shows, doesn’t really matter.
Rushfield: Yes. Just in terms of having a front person out there selling it beforehand. Last year, we saw without a host and without any movies anyone had heard of, there was no hook to bring audiences in.. There needs to be a host that can make this his or her own and not just be swallowed by the whale.
Tangcay: I have always loved the Oscar host -good or bad. I know Billy Crystal is not an ideal host for 2022, but how great would it be to have that audience feel like they’re at a show. It used to be such a spectacle. Remember when Bjork and Cher walked the red carpet? Those days are long gone. Bring back the host.
Thompson: I have long believed that the host is irrelevant to ratings. Only the movies drive the viewers– although Ellen did well her year to drive some audience engagement.
Toto: Yes, a little, assuming the host is funny and apolitical. Few comedians would dare take the gig today, and I don’t blame them. Ricky Gervais is the one host who would draw a crowd, but the Oscar producers would never, ever consider him for the gig.
Wloszczyna: In 2014, comic and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres – whose rep back then wasn’t tarnished yet — hosted and decided that she would have pizza delivered to the hungry stars in the audience and handed out lottery tickets to the runners-up. She also tried to squeeze as many stars as she could in a photo to see if she could make Twitter history with her “selfie” –which she did by collecting 1 million views. The next year, however, host Jimmy Kimmel tried his own schtick between award presentations, but it didn’t feel all that fresh. However, I do think that the Academy should try to recruit a host again to keep the night moving along.
Zoller: Yes but it is such a thankless gauntlet for many to walk.
4) Do you think having ten nominees this year with broaden the taste of Academy members to make the choices less niche?
Adams: I’ve always strongly supported having 10 Best Picture nominees. Just as a historical snapshot, 10 titles will give future Oscarologists a more complete picture of the year in film than 5 nominees can do. Will it give the Academy a chance to put a more complete range of their taste on display? Naturally. But we already know what that means. It means we get Tree of Life but we also get The Blind Side. It means we’ll get to see what the 5% most sophisticated Oscar voters think is best, and it also means we’ll sometimes get to see what the 5% least sophisticated Oscar voters think is best. I’m not unhappy about either end of the spectrum. It is what it is. Just saying: brace yourselves.
Anderson: I don’t think it’s going to make it much different than we’ve seen since 2011. The first two years of the 10-film ballot (2009, 2010) brought a wide range of films (honestly, even a top 5 does that) and the subsequent years have as well.
Flores: Absolutely – I’ve long been a vocal proponent of the return to a hard 10 nominees ever since AMPAS decided to peplexingly move to the weird compromise system of a “floating’ number of nominees. Doubling the amount of slots voters can fill when selecting Best Picture nominees will give them the opportunity to expand their palette beyond the usual curated choices that are funneled to them by the awards season process every year. When the Academy last implemented a hard 10 BP nominees from 2009-2010, we saw bold and eclectic films like Winter’s Bone and Black Swan get nominated, we saw popular genre and animated BP nominees like District 9, Up, Toy Story 3, Avatar, Inception, and although it was panned by the critics, there was no doubt that The Blind Side was a populist nominee for a wide swath of general moviegoers. A full 10 nominees helps both increase the genre diversity of the BP lineup, and it also helps the Academy to bridge the gap with mainstream audiences.
Haddad: I do think expanding to ten nominees broadens the diversity of the types of films nominated. Not because there are more nominees but because the way in which they vote changes. It allowed voters to list off their favorite films without having to weight their ballot for their one or two favorites. As you’ve pointed out in the past we saw more films from female filmmakers, we saw animated films, we saw visionary blockbusters, we saw crowd pleasers.
Hammond: Questionable but we will see. Blind Side got in with 10. They need a few more of those. Shang Chi, anyone?
Howell: I think locking the Best Pictures nominees at 10 is the right way to go. This category has seemed very confusing and arbitrary in recent years with its ever-shifting number of nominees. A guaranteed slate of 10 nominees would allow for more films that people have actually seen to share the Oscar spotlight. Bonus: They could drop the dumb idea of a “Best Popular Film” category, or whatever that was to be called.
Johnson: No. They like what they like, so I expect more of the same. However, with films like Dune and King Richard likely in the lineup, I think we will get a mix of art house and blockbuster anyway. I am glad it is an even 10 this year though.
Moser: 2009 and 2010 were two of my all-time favorite years since I started watching the Oscars. Animated and international features land on top ten lists all the time so why not in Best Picture. I remember going to the AMC Best Picture Showcase both of those years and I talked to total strangers who enjoyed seeing Up and then walking blindly into Winter’s Bone. I think it will make the lineup more like what you would see when you walk into a theater and look up at the list of what’s playing. A little bit of everything.
Moye: Yes, we’ve seen this happen the last time they went to 10. We saw more popular films fill those down-ballot slots, animated films in particular. I think having more options allows voters the opportunity to throw in a few titles they wouldn’t normally vote for, and we all know what those titles are: they’re popular films. Of course, Hollywood has to make great popular films again. The 10 will be filled with indies if mainstream films suck. I’m optimistic this year, though, with more accessible films (like King Richard or maybe Cyrano) seen early in festival circuits.
Neglia: I actually do believe this. We’ve already seen a good mixture of potential contenders from a mammoth blockbuster such as “Dune,” to a broad pieces of entertainment such as “King Richard,” to an unconventional biopic like “Spencer,” to what will probably be the most critically acclaimed film of the year in “The Power of the Dog,” and maybe, just maybe the first documentary (and return of an animated) nominee for Best Picture with “Flee.” All of this coupled along with possible successes for unseen films such as “House Of Gucci,” “The Last Duel,” “West Wide Story,” “Nightmare Alley” and “Soggy Bottom” will hopefully make this one of the better Best Picture lineups we’ve seen in years.
Phillips: I actually do, but I’m guessing the impact will be marginal, but a broader level of interest could pay off by a couple ratings points.
Poland: Maybe. It’s an added nominee or 3… same voters… they aren’t voting to place movies in slots… could be more small films, could be some big films or categories like doc, foreign, or animated. No one knows. Depends on the field. And it will change annually, depending on the field.
Rushfield: They couldn’t get more niche! But I don’t think if you have a couple big movies in the 9-10 slots that are not serious contenders that will really make any difference. If the thrust of the show is about honoring movies that very few people have seen, then get used to some subset of that number being the audience.
Thompson: Last year the Oscars fell victim to so many factors — the strange COVID protocol show, the small-scale movies that were released during the pandemic, the most commercial ones pushed back.
That said, the Oscars need to make a comeback: that’s why ten films will vie for Best Picture, as the Academy hopes they will be BIG FILMS — and not little ones.
Toto: Maybe a tiny bit, but the Oscars’ problems are so varied, and entrenched, that it won’t have a major impact. The dirty little secret? The folks behind the Oscars either won’t acknowledge the reasons behind the show’s ratings collapse or don’t care.
Wloszczyna: I never understood why those filling out their ballots for Best Picture would stop at 8 or 9 when they could always pick up to 10. I do believe that will allow for more variety and perhaps find spots for popular genres that aren’t always well represented.
Zoller: Yes good idea