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To combat declining ratings, the Oscars are undergoing a drastic slimming, with eight awards to be presented off-air during next month’s telecast of the 94th Academy Awards.
In a letter sent to members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Tuesday, group president David Rubin said the awards for film editing, production design, sound, makeup and the hairstyle, the music (original music) and the three short Film awards (documentary, live action and animation) will be presented at the ceremony before the start of the March 27 live broadcast on ABC.
Now, instead of starting the ceremony and airing it all at once, the Dolby Theater ceremony will start an hour before the airing. The presentation and speeches of these first eight winners will be edited and featured during the three-hour live stream, which Rubin said would always provide each winner with their “Oscar moment.”
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Rubin said the changes were necessary for the future health of the Oscars.
“When deciding how to produce the Oscars, we recognize that it is a live television show and we must prioritize television audiences to increase viewer engagement and keep the show vital. , kinetic and relevant,” Rubin wrote. “This has been a big talking point for some time. We do this while remembering the importance of giving our candidates a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The possibility of removing some of the 23 Oscar categories from broadcast has long been debated. In 2019, the academy initially sought to air four categories – cinematography, editing, make-up and hair and live action short – in a shortened, recorded segment. But after a backlash, the academy reversed a few days before the show.
But the ratings continued to decline. Last year’s broadcast, severely impaired by COVID-19, dropped to an all-time low of 9.85 million viewers. (In 2018, 29.6 million people watched.) Pressure has mounted not just with longtime Oscars broadcast partner ABC, but within the academy to innovate a cultural institution that has long resisted the change.
This year, after several hostless Oscars, producers are turning to the trio of Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes to host. The show, produced by Will Packer, will also recognize the favorite movie as voted by fans on Twitter.
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By remaking the Oscars to be less of a walk through the awards, the Oscars will look a bit more like the Tonys and the Grammys, which have also reduced the number of awards given out on their TV shows. That didn’t prevent a drop in ratings for either, however. Both the Tonys and the Grammys saw new lows in viewership in 2021. Some have argued that no amount of tinkering can stem the tide against all network television broadcasting in a more diffuse streaming media world.
Rubin promised the revamped show would be “tighter and more electric” due to the category changes, but also promised that a finicky tweak from last year’s ceremony wouldn’t return: the show will end at again with the award for best image.