×

How the Oscar Date Change Will Affect the Outcome

This year, there are 8,469 eligible Oscar voters, a jump of 35% from four years ago. The membership increase may affect the outcome, but without seeing a numerical breakdown of branches, gender and geographic location of voters, we will never know for sure.

There is another important factor affecting the results: The changing calendar.

This year’s ceremony, on Feb. 9, is the earliest ever. The accelerated schedule has been the source of anxious jokes for months; the attitude seemed to be that this year’s awards season is filled with familiar stuff, but at a faster pace.

However, it is not the same stuff. The differences affect two key areas: the all-important buzz, and voters’ access to watching the films. If a film hasn’t established itself by mid-October, it’s an uphill battle. The faster schedule removes the opportunity for people to discover films, especially late-year openers.

As always, the SAG Awards nominations include six categories for film, picked by SAG-AFTRA voters (who were randomly selected to be part of this year’s nominating committee). This year, no film that began public screenings after Oct. 15 got a SAG nomination. Most nominees had debuted via the September festivals and had been frequently screened since then.

Popular on Variety

Coincidence? Maybe.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences traditionally held the Oscars in March or April, but moved the ceremony a month earlier, beginning with the Oscarcast on Feb. 29, 2004. Oscar history offers other evidence that the date change can have an impact.

— The bellwethers changed. For the 16 years before the date switch, the film that earned the most nominations won the best picture award 14 times, or 87%. For the 16 years after that date change, the film with the most nominations won only six times, or 37%.

— Before the switch (1987-2002), the Golden Globes predicted the Oscar best pic in 13 of the 16 years (81%). After the switch, that match was cut in half, to seven of 16 times (43%).

— Every best-picture winner from 1987 to 2002 had a cold opening — i.e., debuted in theaters commercially, without previous runs on the festival circuit. Of those 16 winners, 10 had launched in November or December. (In 2002, the year “Chicago” won, all five best-pic nominees opened in the U.S. in December.) In 2019, it’s doubtful if most of them would have been nominated.

— For the past 11 years (i.e., since the 2008 “Slumdog Millionaire”), every one of Oscar’s best picture winners had debuted at Venice, Telluride or Toronto, or some combo of those three.

Clearly, awards strategists are using the fests to begin their buzz. In theory, there’s no harm in that. But in the past, a later Oscar-voting date allowed some films to build word-of-mouth. Exhibit A is Halle Berry, who was not high on the awards radar in December 2001, but “Monster’s Ball” from Lionsgate had time to build support.

Voters no longer have time to discover little films that began screening late and/or that didn’t have extensive screenings or a hefty push from their distributors. That list includes “Clemency,” “A Hidden Life,” “Just Mercy,” “Dark Waters,” “Honey Boy,” “Waves,” “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” “Give Me Liberty,” and “Uncut Gems.” None of them earned a single Oscar nomination. A few latecomers, including “Bombshell,” “Little Women” and “1917,” earned Academy Award bids, but they were high-profile movies that voters made a point of seeing. The other films didn’t have that benefit.

The earlier awards are meant to help Oscarcast ratings. But the big question is: Are they helping to encourage moviegoing?

More Film

  • 'Veep' Creator Armando Iannucci Teams With

    'Veep' Creator Armando Iannucci Teams With 'Intouchables' Producer Yann Zenou on Comedy 'Sumo'

    “Veep” creator Armando Iannucci has teamed with “Intouchables” and “Death of Stalin” producer Yann Zenou on a coming-of-age theatrical feature comedy set in the world of amateur sumo wrestling. Rocket Science is handling worldwide sales at the European Film Market. Iannucci will act as executive producer. Other producers, alongside Zenou, on the project are Emily [...]

  • Mahmoud Sabbagh

    Red Sea Festival Chief Mahmoud Sabbagh on Attracting Movies, Execs to Saudi (EXCLUSIVE)

    Saudi Arabian film director Mahmoud Sabbagh, who made a splash with groundbreaking romcom “Barakah Meets Barakah” and black comedy “Amra and the Second Marriage,” roughly a year ago became president of Saudi’s Red Sea International Film Festival, the kingdom’s first full-fledged festival and market. The ambitious event, which will run March 12-21 in Jeddah, recently [...]

  • Liam Neeson

    Liam Neeson to Star in Martin Campbell’s ‘Memory’ for STX International

    Liam Neeson is set to star in the action crime thriller “Memory” to be directed by the U.K.’s Martin Campbell (“Casino Royale,” “Goldeneye”). STX International is handling the international sales rights and will unveil the project at the Berlin Film Festival’s European Film Market. “Memory” follows Neeson as an expert assassin who himself becomes a target [...]

  • Pulsar Boards 'Wild Indian' With Jesse

    Pulsar Content Boards 'Wild Indian' Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Greyeyes (EXCLUSIVE)

    Pulsar Content, the Paris-based sales company launched at Toronto, has acquired “Wild Indian,” a thriller executive produced by and starring Jesse Eisenberg, along with Michael Greyeyes (“Fear the Walking Dead”). The film marks the feature debut of Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr., whose shorts have played at Toronto and Sundance. “Wild Indian” was developed at the [...]

  • The Night Clerk

    'The Night Clerk': Film Review

    In “The Night Clerk,” Tye Sheridan and a very busy Ana de Armas star as a hotel clerk with Asperger’s and the solicitous beauty who shows up after a murder. The chemistry between Sheridan and de Armas is involving. The casting of Helen Hunt as a enabling mother and John Leguizamo as a police detective [...]

  • A still from Rebuilding Paradise by

    'Rebuilding Paradise': Film Review

    Ron Howard, over the last decade, has directed a handful of documentaries (all of them about popular musicians), and maybe it’s no surprise that he has turned out to be an ace craftsman of the nonfiction form. But “Rebuilding Paradise,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, is a different kind of Ron Howard documentary, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content