Don't Panic: Why moving the Oscars to January could work
A collective gasp of panic was heard across Hollywood on Tuesday night when news broke that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were considering moving the Academy Awards from its now "traditional" late February date to sometime in January. The panic wasn't from the studios, though. They would save a bundle on shorter awards season campaigns. It wasn't from broadcast partner ABC who would probably reap the rewards of higher ratings whenever the show occurs. And it wasn't form Academy members themselves who wouldn't mind not having the entire Oscar season drag on from Sept. untill almost March. No, the only people upset by the possible early arrival of the world's biggest award show is the one group who depends on the commerce off an extended season: the media.
Yes, from "for your consideration" ads in trade papers, the LA Times and online sites (including HitFix it should be noted), a shorter season would create a windfall of millions of dollars of potential revenue. For struggling offline outlets like Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and the LA Times respectively, that's a huge decline in income that could kill their bottom line. And they aren't the only ones who would be affected. TV networks like E! and TV Guide Network count on awards season coverage to lure in advertisers as they ramp up to the big show. A shorter season means less time and less content to run commercials with. Oh, and let's not forget Awards Campaign's fellow prognosticators, many of whom would have to find other things to write about for an additional month or, god forbid, six weeks during the year.
Granted, for the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards, this is a bit disconcerting. It would probably mean an earlier Jan. date for SAG and possibly a December move for the Globes (although in all honesty, it's not like NBC couldn't use some original programming during that month). Faux awards shows like the Critic's Choice Awards (which truly serve no real purpose) would likely disappear and the Indie Spirits would just change their date to the Saturday before whenever Oscar Sunday moves (they're easy like that). Now, the HFPA would probably be the angriest, but considering the Academy still pretends the Globes don't even exist even after 67 years, they aren't going to factor into the decision. Because, really, this is all about money, but first an official comment from the Oscar gods behind all his.
AMPAS publicly acknowledged the potential move in statement released today saying the change is "being explored as a possibility." In fact, it was brought up at Tuesday's AMPAS board meeting which ended up being leaked all over the internet.
The Academy also said, "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."
That was the most political way of saying, "Yes, we're considering it and if it happens you'll just have to deal." Still, some pundits are up in arms. What will they do in February or early March?
Here are the most common excuses why the Oscars shouldn't move and whether its legitimate or not.
Academy members wouldn't be able to spend the quality time reviewing screeners during the Christmas to New Year's holiday before deciding on nominations.
Truth: Not so fast. Members would probably still have that time, but it would be used to help determine the winners. Nominations could be decided on while screening films over the long Thanksgiving weekend.
Ratings would go down if the show moved to January.
Truth: Hardly. The rebound of the Globes and the strong numbers the Grammys and American Music Awards pull in December, Jan. and the first week in February show viewers don't save their awards watching until the Oscars. It should also be noted that ABC is in re-runs traditionally in Jan. Original programming during a non-sweeps month allowing more relevant sweeps programming in Feb.? Yeah, they might just go for that.
It would hurt the specialty market of limited releases who count on awards season attention to pump up their grosses.
Truth: Possibly, but chances are it would just mean some prestige pictures would open earlier providing a greater selection of films throughout the year.
This is too much of a fundamental change for Academy members to handle.
Truth: That's just ridiculous. Oscar just went from five Best Picture nods to 10 nods after 50 plus years and no one died. Changing the voting schedule and show date will be an adjustment, but its doable.
Now, here are some added benefits.
Who needs a dead weekend before the Super Bowl?
Everyone is fixating on the Academy moving the show up to the first or second week of January, but the more likely scenario seems to be the Sunday in between the NFL League Championships and the Super Bowl. Of course, it would help if the NFL didn't keep the Pro Bowl on that weekend, but who watches that anyway?
Awards Season would be more exciting in a shorter period of time.
Only a small minority don't feel the dead of February when there is nothing left to campaign about, money is wasted on too many ads (both print and TV) and campaign cocktail parties that find people socializing about anything but their Oscar votes.
The Show itself would be less predictable and have better speeches.
Sandra Bullock's best acceptance speech in 2010? The Critic's Choice Awards. Her second best? The SAG Awards. Oscar came in third. Less competition from other shows should mean more suspense (cough, like the Globes) and earn better ratings.
Depending on the new date, the Sundance Film Festival would get all of the industry's attention.
And that's a good thing (at least to this commentator).
Yes, change is never easy, but this is one shake up that could absolutely be a long term winner for the Academy. And if ABC gets behind it, expect the big switch in 2012.
What do you think?