Several major Academy Awards will not be presented on the air during this year’s Oscars in an effort to present a more streamlined and television-friendly broadcast. Eight honors will instead be awarded during off-air parts of the show and then edited into the telecast, Variety has confirmed. The Oscars recognize 23 categories in total, but the show has been criticized for being long-winded and its ratings have struggled in recent years.
The awards that will be handed out earlier in the ceremony are for documentary short, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, original score, production design, animated short, live action short and sound. The ceremony will start one hour before the on-camera portion begins in order to accommodate the changes.
Clips of the speeches will be folded into the live televised broadcast. That’s similar in approach to what the Tony Awards and other televised ceremonies have done with awards that recognize technical achievements. The Oscars have already moved the honorary honors off of the broadcast and present those prizes on another night. Nominees in the awards categories that will be awarded prior to the show were informed of the overhaul during a Zoom call on Tuesday.
As the Oscars enter their 94th year, the awards show is under pressure to bolster ratings from ABC, the network home of the ceremony. That’s because last year’s ceremony was the least-watched in the history of the awards, with a paltry 9.23 million viewers tuning in to watch “Nomadland” win best picture, a 51% drop from the 18.69 million viewers who switched on the previous year’s Oscars. That’s emboldened the Academy to make a decision to dramatically overhaul the March 27 telecast, a move that will almost certainly expose the group to controversy and criticism.
In 2019, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the group behind the Oscars, caused an outcry when it announced that several below-the-line awards would be presented during commercial breaks. That caused fierce blowback from artists and talent who believed the Oscars were minimizing the contributions of these craftspeople and the show’s producers then abandoned those plans in the face of the outcry.
“After carefully listening to feedback and suggestions from our film community, our network partner, and all those who love the Oscars, it was evident we needed to make some decisions about the broadcast that are in the best interest of the future of our show and our organization,” Academy President David Rubin wrote in a letter that went out to the group’s membership.
The new plan will allow more time for comedy, film clips and musical numbers, Rubin explained. But the Academy head acknowledged that the move could prompt bruised feelings.
“We realize these kinds of changes can prompt concern about equity, and we ask you to understand our goal has been to find a balance in which nominees, winners, members, and viewing audience all have a rewarding show experience,” Rubin wrote. “Moving forward we will assess this change and will continue to look for additional ways to make our show more entertaining and more thrilling for all involved, inside the Dolby Theatre and watching from home.
Rubin’s full letter is below:
Dear Fellow Academy Members,
We’re excited to present a 94th Oscars broadcast that both honors the year’s achievements in motion pictures and provides boundless entertainment for our global audience of movie lovers. After carefully listening to feedback and suggestions from our film community, our network partner, and all those who love the Oscars, it was evident we needed to make some decisions about the broadcast that are in the best interest of the future of our show and our organization.
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. This has been an important focus of discussion for quite some time. We do this while also remembering the importance of having our nominees relish a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
In order to provide more time and opportunity for audience entertainment and engagement through comedy, musical numbers, film clip packages and movie tributes, a change in the show’s production will take place. This year’s show producers and Academy leadership with oversight of the Oscars have made the decision, with endorsement from the officers and the Awards Committee, that every awards category must be featured on the television broadcast, though eight awards will initially be presented in the Dolby Theatre in the hour before the live broadcast begins.
They will not be presented in the pre-show nor on the red carpet, as some have speculated. Instead, the in-person ceremony at the Dolby Theatre will begin one hour earlier to present eight awards categories before the live telecast starts. Those presentations will then be edited by our creative and production teams and will be folded seamlessly into the live televised show.
To be clear, all the nominees in ALL awards categories will be identified on air and ALL winners’ acceptance speeches will be featured on the live broadcast. Every awarded filmmaker and artist in every category will still have the celebratory ‘Oscar moment’ they deserve on the stage of the Dolby, facing an enrapt audience.
For the audience at home, the show’s flow does not change, though it will become tighter and more electric with this new cadence, and the live broadcast should end – yes, with the Best Picture category – at the three-hour mark.
This year, those categories presented in the evening’s first hour and seen later in the live broadcast are, alphabetically: Documentary (Short Subject), Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Music (Original Score), Production Design, Short Film (Animated), Short Film (Live Action), and Sound.
The categories to be presented live on this year’s broadcast are, alphabetically: Actor in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Animated Feature Film, Best Picture, Cinematography, Costume Design, Directing, Documentary (Feature), International Feature Film, Music (Original Song), Visual Effects, Writing (Adapted Screenplay), and Writing (Original Screenplay).
We realize these kinds of changes can prompt concern about equity, and we ask you to understand our goal has been to find a balance in which nominees, winners, members, and viewing audience all have a rewarding show experience. Moving forward we will assess this change and will continue to look for additional ways to make our show more entertaining and more thrilling for all involved, inside the Dolby Theatre and watching from home.
Every Academy branch and award category is indispensable to the success of a film and vital to this industry. Both our challenge and our goal is to create an exciting, streamlined Oscars show without sacrificing the long-held fundamentals of our organization. We appreciate your understanding and will be grateful for your unwavering support.
Variety exclusively reported this year’s ceremony will be hosted by Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes.