The Academy Awards are the most prestigious movie awards of all time and while they don’t always necessarily speak of a movie’s qualities, they do give it the limelight. Being such an important event, the ceremony of the Oscars is marked by much pomp and the 2022 Oscars are no different in that regard. However, one aspect observed over the years is the falling viewership of the ceremony. One obvious factor is the COVID-19 which wreaked havoc in the United States resulting in exponential losses for Hollywood in terms of both audience and money. Another major contributing factor to the declining viewership is that with the exception of “Dune” almost no one went to theatres to watch films. Furthermore, none of the nominated films are included in a count for the highest grossing movies of the year with OTT platforms making things all the more worse. Also campaigns like the #OscarsSoWhite have not really helped as they have drawn considerable attention to the long-standing problems with how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chooses its honorees. Everyone on social media ranging from Academy members and pop culture nerds have a hot take about the show’s frankly ludicrous comedic bits and opinions as to who would have been a better host (or whether the show should have a host at all). To ensure that the Oscar ratings are higher than last time, the Academy has chosen to implement a number of steps to increase viewership.
But unfortunately these may have had the opposite effect, as the reactions to these steps have not been positive. One was adding a “Fan Favourite” poll for online voting for the best film and editing out eight categories to make the awards show shorter. The first had a less than satisfactory effect for it seems that Academy forgot that adding an online poll would not necessarily result in people picking out any of the nominees, but rather the film which has the strongest fan army behind it. However, it was the second choice which resulted in a controversy and is likely to cause its ratings to plummet even further. This year, folks reacted strongly after the Academy announced that eight of the ceremony’s rather significant if not so often highlighted awards (Best Editing and Best Original Score – as well as Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, Sound and the three shorts categories (Live Action, Animated and Documentary) would be handed out before the live telecast. The blowback has been quick, loud and clear. Pundits (and Patton Oswalt) ripped into the decision on social media. Steven Spielberg condemned it, as did Guillermo del Toro. James Cameron and Jane Campion were among 70 prominent filmmakers to issue a letter to the Academy urging them to reconsider. Best Actress frontrunner Jessica Chastain has vowed to skip the red carpet in protest. Some Academy members, including previous Oscar nominees in the sound categories, Tom Fleischman and Peter Kurland, resigned from the organization. The sound editors who are attending, meanwhile, are reportedly planning a silent protest by wearing the guild badges upside down. There’s also speculation that all winners are being encouraged to join in a wider silent protest by accepting their Oscars upside down. However, blaming ABC and Academy for their choices to try and increase viewership is hardly fair as the ratings have plummeted to all time lows in the past few years. In the 1990s, the Oscar telecast exceeded 50 million, and in 2010 it also stood at a high of 40 million. However, by 2020 the count fell to a low of 23 million and last year it stood at a mere 10 million. With all that is going on, Academy is only the more desperate to get its ratings up.