Eight of the 23 Oscar categories will not be presented live on the March 27 broadcast; instead, they’ll be taped in the hour before the telecast in the audience and then run at points during the show. In a letter that just went out from AMPAS President David Rubin to nominees and members, explanations were given for the change, but it clearly is an attempt to broaden the audience for the show.
Sources at the Academy indicate that the decision came after suggestions from ABC, the “industry” and elsewhere, where feedback was offered with the understanding that the need to increase and maintain viewer engagement was vital. The emphasis was this is a live show, and that is paramount in creating interest. The fact that Dune is the only Best Picture nominee to earn over $100 million, and such popular tentpoles as Spider-Man: No Way Home and No Time To Die were largely ignored in major categories is probably a factor, also leading to the recent AMPAS initiative to have an #OscarsFan Favorite voted on by Twitter in a contest currently running on twitter through March 3.
The powers that bee clearly felt the time was now — or never — to reimagine the Oscar show, but it is not a novel idea to actually pre-tape some select categories, edit them and then try to roll them in seamlessly into the show. It was a suggestion in 2019 to do the same thing, but that was rolled back after an outcry. This alwayshas been a red line for the Board, which consists of many Governors representing the affected categories, which are Documentary (Short Subject), Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Music (Original Score), Production Design, Short Film (Animated), Short Film (Live Action), and Sound.
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The categories to be presented live on the broadcast are Actor in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Animated Feature Film, Cinematography, Costume Design, Directing, Documentary (Feature), International Feature Film, Music (Original Song), Visual Effects, Writing (Adapted Screenplay), Writing (Original Screenplay) and Best Picture.
The Academy wants to emphasize that none of the 23 categories is coming off the show and will not be presented on the red carpet or that show leading into Oscars. Instead, they will be presented immediately before the start of the live broadcast in front of a full audience at the Dolby Theatre and later folded into the actual three-hour telecast.
Unlike the past attempt, branches are not being given the guarantee that if their category is pre-taped before the broadcast begins, they will be in the actual live show next year. Instead sources say they will see how this year’s 94th Oscars are received and then make any decisions afterward regarding the 95th Oscars and beyond. They promise every winner will have their “moment of celebration” as always and it will be seen on television, but the emphasis is on creating more live comedy, music, film clips and other elements that go into making an entertaining broadcast.
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This is the same template of sorts that the Tonys and Grammys have been doing for years, even without all categories getting equal treatment on the actual telecast, as the Academy seems to be promising. This all falls big-time on the shoulders of this year’s Academy Awards producer Will Packer, so the pressure is definitely on. Of course, the highest-rated Oscar shows are the ones where there is a “rooting interest” — meaning films people have actually seen — which is why years when such popular movies like Titanic, The Lord of the Rings, Avatar and Black Panther were in the running also drew more viewers.
Without that going for AMPAS this year in any significant way, the challenges are obviously greater, and this seems to be a pre-emptive answer.
Here is AMPAS’ letter in its entirety:
Dear Fellow Academy Members,
We’re excited to present a 94th Oscars broadcast that both honors the year’s achievements in motion pictures and provides boundless entertainment for our global audience of movie lovers. After carefully listening to feedback and suggestions from our film community, our network partner, and all those who love the Oscars, it was evident we needed to make some decisions about the broadcast that are in the best interest of the future of our show and our organization.
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. 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.
In order to provide more time and opportunity for audience entertainment and engagement through comedy, musical numbers, film clip packages and movie tributes, a change in the show’s production will take place. This year’s show producers and Academy leadership with oversight of the Oscars have made the decision, with endorsement from the officers and the Awards Committee, that every awards category must be featured on the television broadcast, though eight awards will initially be presented in the Dolby Theatre in the hour before the live broadcast begins.
They will not be presented in the pre-show nor on the red carpet, as some have speculated. Instead, the in-person ceremony at the Dolby Theatre will begin one hour earlier to present eight awards categories before the live telecast starts. Those presentations will then be edited by our creative and production teams and will be folded seamlessly into the live televised show.
To be clear, all the nominees in ALL awards categories will be identified on air and ALL winners’ acceptance speeches will be featured on the live broadcast. Every awarded filmmaker and artist in every category will still have the celebratory ‘Oscar moment’ they deserve on the stage of the Dolby, facing an enrapt audience.
For the audience at home, the show’s flow does not change, though it will become tighter and more electric with this new cadence, and the live broadcast should end – yes, with the Best Picture category – at the three-hour mark.
This year, those categories presented in the evening’s first hour and seen later in the live broadcast are, alphabetically: Documentary (Short Subject), Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Music (Original Score), Production Design, Short Film (Animated), Short Film (Live Action), and Sound.
The categories to be presented live on this year’s broadcast are, alphabetically: Actor in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Animated Feature Film, Best Picture, Cinematography, Costume Design, Directing, Documentary (Feature), International Feature Film, Music (Original Song), Visual Effects, Writing (Adapted Screenplay), and Writing (Original Screenplay).
We realize these kinds of changes can prompt concern about equity, and we ask you to understand our goal has been to find a balance in which nominees, winners, members, and viewing audience all have a rewarding show experience. Moving forward we will assess this change and will continue to look for additional ways to make our show more entertaining and more thrilling for all involved, inside the Dolby Theatre and watching from home.
Every Academy branch and award category is indispensable to the success of a film and vital to this industry. Both our challenge and our goal is to create an exciting, streamlined Oscars show without sacrificing the long-held fundamentals of our organization. We appreciate your understanding and will be grateful for your unwavering support.