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The Oscars are facing certain doom, here’s how to fix it

by Blake Chapman The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte's editorial board. 2018 was one arduous 12-month stretch of time. The United States seems to still be divided, politically and socially with debates over the future of the country and the world taking place daily. However, if there is one thing Americans can agree on, it is questioning the odd choices the Academy of Motion Pictures makes about the Oscars. It was not a very positive 2018 for the Academy, which included hosts stepping down, backlash about whatever that “popular film” category was supposed to be and the decision to not honor some of the most integral members of the filmmaking process. Controversy aside, the program has also been losing viewership consistently over the last five years. With some fresh ideas and a couple risks, the Oscars could be well on their way back into the spotlight.

Length

Possibly the simplest problem to rectify on the road to improving the Academy Awards would be the show’s total runtime. Between commercial breaks, lengthy acceptance speeches and the host’s lackluster attempts at getting laughs of approval, the annual awards program has taken up over three and a half hours of air time from ABC for the last seven years. Unfortunately, the pattern has been on the up and up lately with just last year’s coverage of the ceremony lasting almost four hours. Combine this with the massive amount of red carpet interviews and pre-show festivities and you get a fiasco that can take up to a quarter of the broadcast day to complete. This increase in air time has not helped viewership in the slightest. Over the last five years, the television audience has dropped from 43.7 million in 2013 to 26.5 million in 2018. It seems most people do not want to waste their entire Sunday evening in front of the television guessing who is going to take home the award for sound mixing.
Image from Statista
To the Academy’s credit, they have tried their hardest to find a solution to this issue, to no avail. Both the idea of presenting four different awards during commercial break and performing only two of the original song nominees were shot down by public outcry from fans and celebrities alike. A solid solution to this problem could be including a small live camera panel in the bottom right or left corner during commercial breaks to see what is going on. This would combat advertisements taking up the majority of screen time and allow for the show to run from start to finish instead of stopping for what seems to be 10 minutes every time one of the 24 awards is handed out.

Have commercials play a starring role

If the average american does not keep up with football, why do they continually watch the Super Bowl each year? Simply put, it is for the advertisements (and apparently lackluster halftime performances as of late). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9weiTXQjns The Oscars, while trying to stay unbiased in their choice for the best Hollywood acts, still happens to be a television program. Just like with every other awards show, they need to make money to stay televised each year. However, the Academy has the opportunity to make the commercial segments during their big night one of the most unique in all of entertainment. By taking advantage of connections to studios such as Disney, Warner Bros, MGM and more, they could reveal new trailers and announcements during breaks in the broadcast. This could retain more concurrent viewers instead of everyone tuning in right before they announce best picture.

Be unexpected

Let’s face it, the Academy has become predictable. Each year they select the same safe feature-length films that should simply have “OSCAR BAIT” branded across the poster. Next comes the selections based on current political agendas that may not even deserve to be awarded in the first place. Finally the over 7,000 voting members select the small percentage of films that the audience at large actually recognize, but do not happen to be nominated for awards beyond “Animated Feature Film” and “Visual Effects”. To keep the show interesting, simply do the unexpected. Give streaming titles like “Roma” their day in the sun. Stop denying superhero films their golden statue simply in the pursuit of “class”. And seriously, has Disney bought out the animation category, or am I going to have to wait for Miyazaki to come back out of retirement? Normal moviegoers would eat up this content and talk about the winners for days to come. That excitement would bring them back around at the start of next year to watch the show all over again. The best part about all of these options is that the Academy can execute them without skimping on serious decision-making. Of course, playing to the audience and treating the ceremony as more of a spectacle than an honorary night in film has its critics. However, at some point, both the Academy of Motion Pictures and other entertainment organizations are going to have to decide that the traditional practices they were founded on must be updated. If they do not, the curtain will soon close on the era of awards season.
Sources: YouTube, Twitter, USA TodayStatista Images: YouTube, Twitter, Statista Featured Image: Los Angeles Times

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