Those are some of the questions facing the producers of the Oscars, ABC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has risked angering some of its members and endured criticism over plans to shake up the format by handing out eight awards during what amounts to a preshow, then editing those acceptance speeches into the telecast.
The issues surrounding this year’s awards won’t all be answered when the envelopes get opened on Oscar night. But here are six things to consider before, during and after:
The Academy’s decision to change the format to mollify ABC, which broadcasts the show, has created some buzz about finding a different TV home, one that will celebrate artistry without as much concern about ratings. But since the network’s annual fee covers the organization’s budget, such a shift would require a major investment by a new platform and potentially dilute the audience even further.
What everyone appears reluctant to acknowledge, seemingly, is that media has become a fragmented world, and other than the Super Bowl, shared events — which the Oscars once qualified as — are increasingly becoming a thing of the past.
Will time-crunching categories work?
The protests over moving awards in mostly technical categories was predictable, but it reflects a perhaps belated nod to a fact other award shows have long since recognized: People watch to see stars, not film editors or sound technicians.
That said, there’s no clear evidence a faster-paced, more entertainment-oriented broadcast will jumpstart the ratings, in which case the Academy will have alienated members without a clear benefit.
Does Netflix fulfill its push for Oscar recognition?
After conquering the Emmys, Netflix began a concerted push for Oscars — starting with “Roma” in 2019, the first of its seven best-picture nominees including this year’s — despite resistance within the Academy to fully recognizing streaming movies alongside their theatrical brethren.
Will this be remembered as a weak movie year?
Will a year that anointed “The Power of the Dog,” a compelling but very slow-moving movie, or the small-boned “Coda,” be viewed charitably in the future? We’ll see, although given the lack of consensus and the level of sniping directed at both films, there will be plenty of Monday-morning quarterbacking no matter which way voters go.
Past vs. present: Finding the right balance
The Oscars historically mix old and new, and this year will be no exception, with planned tributes to 60 years of the James Bond franchise and “The Godfather’s” 50th anniversary.
Older viewers that saw the Corleones in theaters, however, aren’t the audience that the Academy and ABC yearn to reach if they’re going to plant the seeds for the future. And the younger demographics they’re desperate to attract (in part because that’s what advertisers covet) aren’t seeing the movies that they’re watching — think “Spider-Man: No Way Home” — heavily represented much among the nominees.
Can the show inspire people to go to the movies?
Historically, a big part of the Oscars has been cheerleading for the movies, which has become more than just an academic exercise for studios and particularly theaters. Last year’s show introduced the hashtag #TheBigScreenIsBack and promoted seeing movies “the way you’ve always loved them.”