The award show is back but it ‘won’t be a traditional Oscars’

By | March 26, 2022

The Oscars are back. The 94th Academy Awards will see streaming breakouts like “The Power of the Dog” take on theatrical exclusives like “West Side Story” and hybrid releases like Warner Bros.’ “Dune” and “King Richard” (T).

Studios’ mixed distribution models, heightened by the pandemic, could somewhat complicate the pure-play streaming vs. theatrical battle as most of this year’s highly anticipated films leaned into a hybrid release strategy.

“We’re still in a very unusual Oscar marketplace,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, told Yahoo Finance during a recent interview.

“It just doesn’t seem like the pre-pandemic era yet,” the analyst, stressing the link between the Oscars and the overall movie theater experience.

“Until the theatrical experience is fully back — and we’re in the middle of that recovery now — both in terms of the box office, and the perception of the industry, it won’t be a traditional Oscars,” Dergarabedian surmised.

He added that the “cultural impact is exponentially greater for a film that plays in the movie theater,” citing the box office bump that tends to happen with both wins and nominations.

Streamers lose Oscars’ momentum, but still ‘greater acceptance’

Although last year saw streaming studios surge in nominations, this year saw a bit of a dip.

Netflix (NFLX) will walk into this year’s award show with 27 nodes (led by “Power of the Dog,” which is a favorite to win best picture); however, that is down from 2021’s 35 nominations.

Amazon Prime Video (AMZN) also slumped to just 3 nods this year (led by “Being the Ricardos”), compared to last year’s 12.

Meanwhile, Apple TV+ (AAPL) scored its first best picture nod with “Coda” and jumped to 6 total nominations, up from last year’s 2. Hulu (DIS) stayed on pace with just 1 nomination.

“One of the biggest things that came out of the pandemic, in terms of the movie industry, is that the streamers now have an opportunity to have their movies represented,” Comscore’s Dergarabedian said.

“The pandemic changed so many things, including what movies could qualify for an Oscar and the parameters and protocols surrounding that. Hollywood is still operating in that environment and there’s now a greater acceptance of those films that come from streamers,” he continued.

Snubs this year included the cast of Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci” and Jennifer Hudson, who played Aretha Franklin in the film “Respect.”

Sony’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was also left out of the best picture category, despite its sky-high box office success with more than $1 billion in global ticket sales.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 25: In this handout photo provided by AMPAS, Brad Pitt speaks onstage during the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

The road to ‘normal’

Unlike last year’s slimmed down, pandemic-era event (which took place inside Los Angeles’ Union Station), 2022 will see the triumphant return of the Dolby Theater with a full red carpet pre-show prior to the ceremony.

Comscore’s Dergarabedian cited the importance of an in-person award show as opposed to a hybrid or virtual one, explaining that “the cultural resonance that the Oscars has is not only based around the movies, but also the telecast and the event itself.”

“We’re still on that road to a more ‘normal’ season,” the analyst noted.

The event, which has remained host-less since 2018, will also feature a female-led trio of Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes. The last trio to host was Chevy Chase, Paul Hogan and Goldie Hawn in 1987.

THE OSCARS - ABCs The 94th Oscars stars Amy Schumer, Regina Hall, and Wanda Sykes

THE OSCARS – ABCs The 94th Oscars stars Amy Schumer, Regina Hall, and Wanda Sykes

Another change this year is the elimination of eight award categories from the live telecast, including original score, film editing, production design, sound, makeup and hairstyling, and the three short film awards for documentary, live-action and animated short.

“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,” Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences President David Rubin said in a previous letter.

Relevancy has certainly been a consistent problem for the Oscars, which has struggled to attract interest from the broader public.

“This is not your great grandparents’ Oscar show…”Paul Dergarabedian, Comscore Senior Media Analyst

According to Nielsen, last year’s Academy Awards slumped a whopping 58.3% (13.75 million) compared to 2020 with just 9.85 million viewers tuning in — a new record low. Prior to that, 2020’s show saw 23.6 million viewers tune in, a 20% drop from 2019 levels, and about 3 million less than 2018’s previous low.

“It just shows you how difficult it is to hit the ‘perfect note,’ in terms of how you present it… and it’s evolving. This is not your great grandparents’ Oscar show, and the movies that are represented are not the same as they were,” Dergarabedian said.

Still, the decision to slim down the show and eliminate certain categories, albeit for the sake of time, created an uproar throughout Hollywood.

Artist union IATSE released the following statement with group president Matthew Loeb writing, in part, “By the nature of our jobs, behind the scenes workers get little recognition as is, despite being the backbone of every production…We believe a deviation for some crafts and categories but not others, is detrimental to this fundamental purpose.”

“Our position remains that the awards should put all the positions that make pictures possible on equal footing. If the winners walk away with the same trophy, then the winners deserve the same recognition. I urge the Academy to reconsider,” Loeb continued.

The 94th Academy Awards will air live on ABC on Sunday, March 27.

Alexandra is a Senior Entertainment and Food Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193

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