Based on the audience figures from this year’s Golden Globes and Baftas ceremonies the Academy is gearing up to potentially present one of the least watched Oscar ceremonies in history. The Oscars are currently expected to air on April 25th.
Steven Gaydos is the executive vice president of content for Variety, a film industry magazine, who recently spoke to the press about this year’s ceremony. “Before Covid hit the audience numbers were declining rapidly, year on year, for all awards shows. The Academy is essentially funded by the TV show, and they are about to open a big expensive museum. They have taken on a half-billion-dollar enterprise at a time when their primary source of income is declining. There could be an iceberg ahead for the Academy.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences typically receives around $75 million every year from ABC thanks to a contract that the two groups signed that will last until 2028. ABC makes a majority of their revenue from advertising, last year they brought in around $120 million, but last year’s figures were the lowest in history, which stunts how much profit is made.
“Further, the telecast itself has struggled to retain audience approval, with frustrations over its lengthy running time, choice of hosts (if any) and the quality of the spectacle on offer. The problems have been compounded by long-running complaints over the lack of diversity in nominees and winners, triggered in 2015 by the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag campaign,” according to film editor Andrew Pulver.
“I personally don’t think a host makes much impact. It’s more about whether the show as a whole entertains and feels fresh. The Oscars remain meaningful to the film industry, but to succeed as a mainstream TV special you’ve got to entertain,” said Jeremy Kay, Americas editor of Screen International magazine.
“The Covid delays have enabled smaller movies to go farther than they might have done had there been the usual barrage of studio heavyweights. It’s not been a banner year, but the quality across the board has been high. These movies, the film-makers behind them and the stories they tell have had more visibility than they might have expected in any other year, and we’re all the better for it,” Kay explained.
Gaydos, on the other hand, thinks that there’s a systemic issue between the way the Academy connects audiences with certain contemporary Hollywood films: “For some time the movies nominated for best picture represent only a tiny fraction of the tickets sold – there is chasm between the Oscars and the moviegoing public. The Marvel and DC films are hardly ever up for best picture, or Star Wars, while the Pixar movies are relegated to the animated category, so the pictures that constitute 90% of moviegoing just aren’t there.”
“At the point that the Oscars become all spinach and no dessert, they put themselves up quite a tree.”
Gaydos went on to explain how “the decline of ‘movie-star culture’ also plays a part, as most franchise films are not really star-driven. Part of the awards show fun is seeing these stars being themselves – nervous, emotional, passionate about their work – and you are effectively spending an evening with some very beautiful people at an important night in their lives. The more that is diminished the less of an event the Oscars is. If the franchise is the star, it doesn’t make you want to tune into an awards show. I love the Academy, I love movies, I love the Oscars, so this current concern gives me a lot of heartache.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.