Rumors flew this week that Academy officials were considering moving the Oscar ceremony up from late February into sometime in January, in the continuing quest to boost the telecast’s ratings. Right away, moving the 2011 ceremony sounded suspiciously unlikely; strange as it may seem, 7 months notice is really not enough time for studios to distribute their films and roll out their awards campaigns a month earlier than expected. And sure enough, yesterday an Academy spokesperson assured rabid awards circuit fans that the Feb. 27, 2011 date previously announced for the Academy Awards is quite firm. However, it would seem the idea IS seriously being considered for the following year’s ceremony, in 2012.
Now, I full-heartedly support this move, although not for the reasons the Academy is hoping for. Here’s my take on the big questions surrounding this possibility:
1) How will the move affect the ceremony’s ratings?
It won’t. Time and time again, we have seen that the only way to get more people to watch the Oscars is to nominate more popular fare, i.e. the decent ratings bump this past year when Avatar was nominated. The idea that the Oscars currently suffer from “awards fatigue” is absolutely ridiculous. If no one watches the Oscars, then NO ONE watches the Critics’ Choice Awards. Or the SAGs. Maybe a few more tune in for the Golden Globes, but again, that’s because they nominate bigger stars and populist films at the Globes. Awards fatigue only affects those of us who are absolutely obsessed with watching every ceremony (and those friends who are unlucky enough to be within earshot of our constant blabbing), and we’re the kind who are going to watch the Oscars whether we’re tired of watching awards shows or not. It’s our life.
2) How will the move affect the other major ceremonies?
This could play out in two ways. The first: the Globes, SAGs, and Critics’ Choice Awards all adjust THEIR schedules, moving even earlier in January or even December, so that they can remain “Oscar predictors.” In this scenario, everything stays pretty much the same about these other ceremonies.
If, however (that’s a BIG if) they decide to stay where they are, with some awards like the SAGs broadcasting AFTER the Oscars…well, things could get interesting then. We could have more surprises, as voters no longer feel the need to “go with the flow” and try to predict the Oscar winner. We could have more relaxed, entertaining ceremonies as stars no longer feel like they’re in the middle of “tryouts” for their Oscar speeches. I doubt this would happen, but we can dream, right?
3) How would the move affect the Oscar winners?
We could have more surprises…at least, surprises for the awards junkies (I’m pretty sure most normal folks who tuned in last March were surprised by Avatar’s loss to The Hurt Locker). This, however, depends on those other ceremonies staying where they are. If they move earlier, we’ll still see the same people win over and over again, just in early January rather than early February.
4) How would the move affect the Oscar campaigns?
This is really the key piece here, and why I would support the move. Studios need to get their films into theaters and screeners in the mail nice and early to give Oscar voters time to watch before ballots go out. So, if the Oscars move to late January, say goodbye to the “December glut.” Studios would probably be more inclined to release some of their awards hopefuls earlier in the year, maybe (please, please, please God) even in the summer. Films from earlier in the year would still be fresher in the minds of voters than they are now.
If the Academy hopes this move will have any effect on their standing with the general populace, they will be sorely disappointed. But as a film snob and awards season addict, I would appreciate a more spread-out release schedule so I don’t have to blow $100 on movies right in the middle of Christmas season again. This will be more of an adjustment than a game-changer, the same way the move to 10 Best Picture nominees has already become business as usual.