Film Titans Say Oscars Format Will Cause 'Irreparable Damage'

Open letter slams decision to present 8 of the 23 awards off-air
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 23, 2022 12:22 AM CST
Updated Mar 11, 2022 7:25 AM CST
Oscars Undergo a 'Radical Slimming Down'
In this Feb. 21, 2015 file photo, an Oscar statue appears outside the Dolby Theatre for the 87th Academy Awards in Los Angeles.   (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

(Newser) Update: There have been grumblings on #FilmTwitter about the Academy's decision to hand out eight of its 23 awards before the Oscars telecast. An open letter sent to Academy President David Rubin makes clear some heavy hitters also object, reports the Los Angeles Times. The missive issued Wednesday and signed by more than six dozen pros—including directors James Cameron and Guillermo del Toro, producer Kathleen Kennedy, and composer John Williams—argues the tweaked format would cause "irreparable damage" to the Oscars' reputation. The group calls the attempt to draw in more viewers by switching things up "laudable," but says it shouldn't be done by "demeaning the very crafts that, in their most outstanding expressions, make the art of filmmaking worthy of celebration." Read the letter in full here. Our original story from Feb. 23 follows:

To combat slumping ratings, the Oscars are undergoing a radical slimming down, with eight awards to be presented off-air during next month's telecast of the 94th Academy Awards, the AP reports. In a letter sent Tuesday to members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the group's president, David Rubin, said that the awards for film editing, production design, sound, makeup and hairstyling, music (original score) and the three short film awards (documentary, live-action and animated) will be presented at the ceremony in the hour before the March 27 live broadcast begins on ABC. The presentation and speeches of those early eight winners will be edited and featured during the three-hour live broadcast, which Rubin emphasized would still provide each winner with their “Oscar moment.”

Rubin said the changes were necessary for the future health of the Academy Awards. “When deciding how to produce the Oscars, we recognize it’s a live event television show and we must prioritize the television audience to increase viewer engagement and keep the show vital, kinetic, and relevant,” wrote Rubin. “This has been an important focus of discussion for quite some time. We do this while also remembering the importance of having our nominees relish a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” The possibility of pulling some of the Oscars' 23 categories from the broadcast has long been a matter of debate.

In 2019, the academy initially sought to air four categories—cinematography, editing, makeup and hairstyling and live-action short—in a shortened, taped segment. But after a backlash ensued, the academy reversed itself days before the show. But ratings have continued to fall. Last year's broadcast, severely altered by COVID-19, plummeted to an all-time low of 9.85 million viewers. (In 2018, 29.6 million watched.) This year, after several host-less Oscars, producers are turning to the trio of Amy Schumer, Regina Hall, and Wanda Sykes to emcee. Rubin pledged the revamped broadcast will be “tighter and more electric" because of the category shifts but also promised one eyebrow-raising tweak from last year's ceremony won't return: The show will again end with the award for best picture.

(Read more Academy Awards stories.)

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