The Oscars are the culmination and celebration of the year in cinema, just as the Super Bowl is the pinnacle for football season. As the nation pauses for a long day of gridiron action, it seems long overdue for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to start treating the Oscars as the Super Bowl of movies.
The Super Bowl is a good prism for thinking about how the Academy can widen the scope of activity around the Academy Awards. “Party” is synonymous with “Super Bowl,” and it should be with “Oscars” as well.
Read more: Variety’s Awards Circuit Predictions Hub
The Super Bowl is much more than a football game. Even when your favorite team isn’t in the hunt, everyone watches. Why? The NFL has built a celebration that is a must-attend event for Fortune 500 companies and established brands to tease new products — including Hollywood’s upcoming releases.
The 30-second spots in the big game are going for an astounding $6.5 million. That’s in part because the Super Bowl is entertaining to audiences beyond sports fans.
So let’s take that concept and apply it to a lot more fun festivities around movies. Of course, the Oscars can’t seize $6 million for 30 seconds, at least not in this moment of declining ratings. Still, they can build an experience that heightens the showcase of the latest teasers and trailers from networks and studios, or announcements of new video game releases and consoles, or any other product that appeals to four quadrant demos.
Who wouldn’t tune in to the March 27 telecast this year for the latest look at the next Marvel Cinematic Universe entry or a sneak peek at the long-awaited “Avatar 2” from James Cameron? Build those commercials into the show with presenters and hosts acknowledging and commenting on them. It won’t even matter who emcees the evening, people will be excited by all the razzmatazz.
The halftime portion of the Super Bowl also invites fans in for an experience they can’t see anywhere else. This year’s Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show will mark the first time music legends Mary J. Blige, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg perform together on stage. The lineup of artists holds special significance for Los Angeles in this special Super Bowl year that features the L.A. Rams trying to win the Lombardi trophy against the Cincinnati Bengals in the Rams’ own house of SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
The Academy’s version of the halftime show is already built into the DNA of the Oscars via the original song category. This year’s nominees list is bubbling with talent, including Beyoncé, Billie Eilish, Finneas, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Reba McEntire and Van Morrison.
The best part of this concept is that it doesn’t need to take away from the nominees and potential winners of the evening. With nominees like “Belfast” and “The Power of the Dog” battling for best picture and A-listers like Will Smith (“King Richard”) and Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”) trying to nab their first statuettes, you have incredible stories to tell about the athletes of awards season. Take a cue from ESPN and create as many feel-good backstory short videos for the nominees as possible.
Social media platforms should also be a vital presence during the telecast. Pick a fun hashtag. Get TikTok on board and select the best and funniest TikToks to serve as intro and outro breaks out of commercials.
The Academy could also create a voting experience, where the general public gets to participate in all awards categories. Announce that vote during the telecast and send the inclusive message that “YOU are also part of the Academy.”
Will Packer, the prolific producer who is steering this year’s Oscar telecast, unveiled the theme of this year’s ceremony during the nominations announcement earlier this week: “Movie Lovers Unite.” While vague enough to mean just about anything, the charter of AMPAS has been the celebration of excellence in cinema. You can’t do that without the consumers, who are a key pillar of the extravaganza of movies.
Industry insiders continue to bemoan the Academy’s omission of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” from the best picture lineup, which landed a nom for best visual effects. So embracing some parts of a Super Bowl-style celebration is a way to welcome the next generation and offer experiences that will feel new as the Academy Awards approach their 100th incarnation in 2028.
Oscar Wilde famously said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Hollywood, it’s time to steal a play from the sporting world and build up the empire. A little more fun and tailgate action around the Oscars is what our industry needs to bring the masses back to the Academy Awards. Throw a party. People will tune in.