- Steven McIntosh
- BBC Entertainment Journalist
The 94th Academy Awards take place this Sunday in Los Angeles and, with last year’s viewing figures at an all-time low, organizers are under pressure to make the ceremony relevant again, particularly to younger audiences. young man.
There used to be hundreds of reasons to sit down and watch the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards.
Before there were social networks, provided a rare opportunity from catch a glimpse of the world’s biggest movie stars gathered in the same place; to see what they were wearing and (for masochists) to listen to their speeches.
Second, it was a place to watch clips from the year’s most acclaimed movies, long before YouTube made trailers available on demand.
And thirdly, frankly, there wasn’t much else to do. The top-rated Oscars were broadcast at a time when linear TV was dominant and there weren’t that many channels to choose from.
But in the age of TikTok, YouTube and the streamingthe biggest night in show business has been losing viewers and, with them, its power.
“The biggest challenge is getting people to watch,” producer of this year’s show Will Packer said last week.
“What that means is there has to be something different about this year’s show that connects with people outside of Hollywood. You have to connect with the casual moviegoer.”
It’s a delicate balance trying to boost viewership ratings while preserving everything that makes the Oscars sacred and prestigious.
Here are five ways the Academy hopes to engage audiences this year.
1. Solid gold stars
To the great relief of the Academy, some of the most famous movie stars are competing for the big prizes this year.
Will Smith, who has never won an Oscar, is the firm favorite to win best actor for his performance in king richardwhere he plays the determined father of young Venus and Serena Williams, the great American tennis players.
As early as September 2021, Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair said, “I don’t see anyone getting over it. It seems like the timing is right, the movie is right, the theme is right, and the type of acting is right. It’s playful, but it’s also serious, and we know that the Academy likes actors who play a real life person“.
Rewarding Smith, he noted, would also be making a statement: that after two years of theaters being closed due to pandemic restrictions, the movies and the stars are back.
The nominations of Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz and Kristen Stewart they make the best actress category equally stellar.
However, there is less consensus on who will triumph here.
The potential winner has changed several times, but Chastain is the current favorite, following her recent recognition from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Critics Awards.
The Academy has also lined up a plethora of big names to present the awards, including Lady Gaga; the star of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsSimu Liu; Zoë Kravitz, from batmanand Ukrainian-born actress Mila Kunis.
2. Hostesses who plan to “burn all the bridges”
The Oscars haven’t had a host since 2018, possibly missing the opportunity for jokes, monologues and sketches to go viral and grab headlines, a strategy that has worked well for the Golden Globes.
Unfortunately, landing someone very important for the roster proved to be a challenge, in part due to scheduling conflicts; in part because many big names presumably fled given the potential setbacks (the memory of James Franco and Anne Hathaway’s disastrous 2011 season still looms large).
Instead, the Academy decided on Amy Schumerwho did very well in 2015, along with actress Regina Hall and the comedian Wanda Sykesboth highly respected though not exactly big international names.
Schumer has recently pointed out that he might use the opportunity to poke fun at the stars in the room (an approach we warmly support).
“I’m going to get in some trouble,” he told Extra earlier this month. “Wanda, Regina are hilarious and we’re having a great time getting ready.”
“I mean, I don’t know who made the decision to let me host, but it’s not a good decision…because I’ll burn all the bridges“.
3. “Fan Favorite” Award
Perhaps the most interesting new addition this year is the prize to the favorite work of the fansan attempt to acknowledge more mainstream movies during the ceremony.
Without him, the Academy would have been well aware that they hadn’t nominated the biggest blockbusters of 2021, including Spider-Man: No Way Home and No Time To Diein the main categories.
Meryl Johnson, vice president of digital marketing for the Oscars, said the presentation of the fan favorite “to helpto to create an engaged and excited digital audience before the ceremony this year.
The vote was open to the public for two weeks.
However, people could vote up to 20 times a day, which meant that the voting process was subject to manipulation by organized and mobilized supporter bases.
What exactly happened?
Even though spider-man (“Spider-Man”) still has a good chance, the “Cinderella” musical, starring Camila Cabello, and Johnny Depp’s art house movie “Minamata” could strangely (and hilariously) end up being recognized in the Oscars.
We’ll have more updates on the new fan-favorite category later this week.
4. Pre-recorded prizes
Eight of this year’s 23 awards will be prerecorded in an effort to save time during the broadcast.
While the grand prizes will still be live, so-called “below the line” categories, such as best editing, sound and production designamong others, will have been presented before.
That means the nominees in the technical categories will be seated an hour before the main ceremony begins.
Their awards will be presented off-air and highlights will be edited into the television broadcast.
“We must prioritize the television audience to increase viewer engagement and keep the show vital, kinetic and relevant,” Academy President David Rubin wrote in a letter to members last month.
But there has been resistance to the idea from big names within the industry.
“I firmly believe that this is perhaps the most collaborative medium in the world,” he told the entertainment outlet. Dadeline West Side Story director Steven Spielberg.
“We all make movies together, we become a family where one craft is just as indispensable as the next. I feel like at the Academy Awards there’s no one above the line, and no one below it. We are all on the same line giving our best to tell the best stories we can.“.
In 2019, the Oscars reversed their decision to present the awards during commercials after significant backlash from the industry.
They’re holding their own this time, but, unlike the idea of the commercials, the winners of those technical categories will at least still make an appearance at the main ceremony.
5. Bruno: live
You can’t celebrate the Oscars without acknowledging that one of the biggest hits on the global charts last year was a movie soundtrack.
So the Academy goes all out, announcing that the cast of “Encanto” will perform the hit “We’re Not Talking About Bruno” live for the first time during the ceremony.
We’ll gloss over the fact that it’s a completely different song from “Encanto” than the one that’s actually nominated for best original song, because we can’t wait to see how Bruno’s complex and layered salsa melodies can be performed live.
In the movie the song is played by more than 10 charactersso it could be difficult to stage it.
But does relevance matter?
The conversation about how to stop the decline in viewing figures spins like clockwork every year. The lower the rating, the louder the cries for change become.
Last year’s Oscars drew their worst television audience ever, with only 10.4 million viewers tuned in.
The 2021 ceremony was unusual in that it was held during global lockdowns after a year with few major movie releases, making it an unreliable benchmark.
This year, the prevention restrictions against covid have been relaxed and the ceremony is returning to normal, so the Academy is doing everything possible for that the audience figures come back to pre-pandemic levelsequaling or bettering the 2020 figure of 23.6 million.
But some have questioned whether it’s necessary to stay relevant to a mass audience.
“I don’t understand why movie people care so much if other people care about the awards we give ourselves,” actor Seth Rogen told Insider.
“I don’t care who wins car awards. No other industry expects everyone to care about the awards they receive.
“Maybe people just don’t care. Maybe they cared for a while and then they stopped caring. And why should they care?”
Some past Oscar winners don’t even bother to attend.
“I’m not going this year. To be honest, they’re actually pretty boring,” the star recently told him. Don’t Look UpMark Rylance, to the British medium RadioTimes.
“I don’t think awards are a serious marker of the greatest or most inspiring things, but it’s nice that they’re happening.”
the oscars are delivered on Sunday, March 27 at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles.
Now you can receive notifications from BBC World. Download the new version of our app and activate it so you don’t miss out on our best content.