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Academy Won’t Move Up Next Oscar Show; Here’s Why

Academy Won't Move Up Next Oscar Show; Here's Why

Just because the topic of moving the Oscars up to January was raised at Tuesday night’s board of governors meeting of the Motion Picture Academy doesn’t mean that it could happen this year. It couldn’t. And the Academy has issued a statement to that effect:

At the June 22 meeting of the Academy’s Board of Governors, there was discussion about moving the date of the Oscar telecast earlier.  The discussion was about the possibility of doing so no sooner  than the 84th Academy Awards, to be held in 2012.  The date for the next Oscar telecast, the 83rd, has already been announced and is firm:  February 27, 2011.
There are a number of questions still to be answered and challenges to be addressed with regard to moving the show to an earlier date.  The Academy Governors and staff have been and will continue to look into those questions and challenges.  No decision has been made and there is currently no timetable for when a decision might be made.  This idea is simply under consideration and being explored as a possibility.

Just start looking at the ramifications of moving the date that early and you can see why it’s impossible. It was ludicrous to even suggest that they could pull it off for the coming awards season.

The eligibility issues are one thing. Some movies are eligible if they open within the calendar year. Pushing back the Oscar show to late January pushes back the nominations to late December, which pushes back the time that people would need to see the films. It’s a nightmare scenario. The Academy has rules and eligibility requirements that go on for miles–the chain reaction would be huge. Distribs would have to change release dates if the awards show was pushed up to January, says Sony Pictures Classics co-president Tom Bernard. “It limits the amount of money you can benefit at the box office from an Oscar nomination. If it’s at the same time as the Golden Globes, it takes the luster off of both of them. It would change everything in terms of release patterns we’ve had set up for quite a while.”

Little movies that would qualify in late December for off-peak January wider release would be pushed into the frenetic holiday frame. Foreign countries would need to submit their films earlier, and the time to get them screened by the foreign branch would be curtailed. The Academy voters would have less time to see the movies in order to nominate them and then, again, to vote in all the categories. That would benefit the bigger high-profile movies over smaller, less branded ones. And so on. “Academy voters are already scrambling to see too many films,” says Oscar campaigner Fredell Pogodin. A move up “would harm smaller films, because it would crunch the window for seeing everything. They will choose to attend the big ones before the smaller ones.”

The fall film festival launch pad would also be impacted–distribs would have to consider earlier summer fests like Cannes and LAFF.

If moving up the Oscars is an ABC, ratings-motivated issue, then the Academy needs to look at what’s most important. The Oscars are about honoring the film industry. It’s the Academy voters’ selection of the year’s best. That process is the important thing, it lends credibility to what the Oscar means. So the Academy is going to rush things so the Oscar show can beat out the Golden Globes? I don’t like the top-ten best picture list either. It dilutes the impact of that nomination.

The road to Oscar is paved by all the critics groups and awards shows, the Golden Globes and BAFTAs, building up to the big night. And the guild awards –SAG, PGA, DGA, WGA–should precede the Oscars as well. Any movement ahead on the calendar will just push others to push forward as well.

I suspect that the real reason AMPAS president Tom Sherak announced Oscar’s 2011 producers earlier than usual was to get ahead of the game in every way. Last year’s show was rushed and harried, with two producers–Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman–who were learning the ropes. Last year’s Governor’s Ball went very well, and Cohen and old-hand Mischer, who can do this stuff in his sleep, will give the Academy a sense of security they most certainly did not feel last year.

Here are some reactions to moving up the Oscars:
Surprisingly, David Poland likes the idea. And offers a chart proving that Oscars don’t mean much at the box office these days. New York Vulture also approves of the idea, for five different reasons. Tom O’Neil on the other hand, disapproves, and rounds up Oscarologist reaction.

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