On March 4, the Oscars aired on ABC to embarrassing viewership numbers. The awards show suffered a whopping 20 percent loss of viewers from last year’s broadcast. While there are a variety of factors that this decline can be attributed to, the Academy certainly must change its ways if it wants to bring its ratings back to where they used to be.
One of the general public’s biggest gripes with the Oscars is the show’s nearly-four-hour run time. ABC is asking a lot of its audience to devote a large chunk of their day to the awards show. It is a tough task for the show to keep viewers entertained for such a long period of time, regardless of how funny or charming the host may be. Perhaps ABC should consider making the show more concise, trimming some of the fat that the program suffers from on an annual basis.
For example, during this year’s show, host Jimmy Kimmel brought a group of actors to surprise an audience viewing an early screening of the Ava Duvernay-directed film “A Wrinkle In Time” at a theater across the street. While this was a fun distraction from the continuous award presentations, it was extremely time-consuming, especially given that there was a long commercial break covering the time it took the group to cross the street. Little moments like these are fun at the time, but looking back after the fact, they take up too much time given the small amount of entertainment that they provide.
Another issue that ABC faces in maintaining high levels of viewership for the Academy Awards show is the actual nominees themselves — particularly for best picture and the actor awards. To be blunt, the majority of the general public is not interested in watching awards being given for films that they have never seen before.
That is where the Academy’s — and ultimately ABC’s — biggest problem arises. Should they continue to nominate what they consider the most artistically fulfilling, or should they be more reflective of what the box office shows each year?
With this year’s winner for Best Picture “The Shape of Water” only pulling in 58 million dollars domestically, the Academy made its decision clear this year, perhaps at the expense of viewership ratings.
In order to get rid of this problem, the Academy simply should give more consideration to blockbuster films. The stigma that blockbuster movies are not worthy of awards beyond those such as visual effects is ultimately harmful to the Oscars, and ending it could revitalize the free-falling program.
The Academy does not have to completely disregard smaller films in favor of blockbusters, but they should put more consideration into nominating films that pull in larger profits.
This year’s program would have been a great time to begin this solution as there were plenty of great performances and films that warranted some recognition at the Oscars.
The superhero film “Logan” was nominated for best adapted screenplay, but was disregarded in the race for best picture. The movie was well-received at both the box office and in reviews, and its ability to provide such a compelling and dramatic story without focusing on spectacle over narrative made it one of the best movies of the year. Had the film been nominated for best picture, perhaps more people would have watched the show because they had seen and connected with the movie — unlike most of the films nominated.
Actors in blockbuster movies are also unfairly disregarded when award season comes around. This year the biggest snub was for Adam Driver’s performance as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Soon after the film’s December release, fans and critics alike were clamoring for Driver to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor. His performance was phenomenal — particularly his ability to portray so much emotion solely through facial expressions. The fans wanted Driver to be nominated, but the Academy was not willing to grant that wish. While the Oscars should not become run by fans, perhaps the opinions of the viewers should at least be considered in the nomination process.
If the Academy shortens the runtime of the show and begins to consider blockbuster movies and performances more seriously, then perhaps it can recover from the rapidly declining ratings.