The Oscars are undertaking a drastic slimming down to fight declining viewership, with eight categories to be delivered off-air during the 94th Academy Awards show next month.
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 before the March 27 live broadcast on ABC, according to a letter sent Tuesday to members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
Rather than beginning the ceremony and broadcast simultaneously, the Dolby Theatre event will now begin one hour before the show. The early eight winners’ presentations and speeches will be trimmed and highlighted during the three-hour live broadcast, which Rubin said will still give each winner a “Oscar moment.”
The adjustments, according to Rubin, are vital for the Academy Awards’ long-term viability.
“We know that the Oscars is a live event television program and that we must emphasize the television audience to promote viewer engagement and maintain the show vibrant, energetic, and current,” Rubin wrote. “For quite some time, this has been a hot topic of debate. We do so while keeping in mind the importance of providing our nominees with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The idea of removing some of the Oscars’ 23 categories from the broadcast has been discussed for a long time. In 2019, the academy planned to show four categories in a condensed, filmed segment: cinematography, editing, makeup and hairstyling, and live-action short. After an outcry, the academy changed its mind just days before the show.
However, the show’s popularity has continued to dwindle. COVID-19 had a significant impact on last year’s broadcast, which dropped to an all-time low of 9.85 million viewers. (A total of 29.6 million people watched in 2018.) Not just with the Oscars’ longstanding broadcast partner, ABC, but also inside the academy, there has been mounting pressure to alter a cultural institution that has long resisted change.
After a string of hostless Oscars, organizers have enlisted the help of Amy Schumer, Regina Hall, and Wanda Sykes to emcee this year’s ceremony. The presentation, which is produced by Will Packer, will also honor the favorite film as chosen by Twitter users.
The Academy Prizes will become a little more like the Tonys and the Grammys, which have similarly reduced the amount of honors handed out during their telecasts, by reworking them to be less of a march through awards. However, neither show’s ratings have improved as a result of this. In 2021, both the Tony Awards and the Grammy Awards saw new lows in terms of viewership. In a more dispersed, streaming media environment, some contend that no amount of tweaking will be enough to stem the flow against any network television program.
Because of the category changes, Rubin claimed that the redesigned broadcast will be “tighter and more energetic,” but he also vowed that one controversial change from this year’s event will not be repeated: the presentation will finish with the award for best picture.