John Bailey, the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, sent a letter to AMPAS members today detailing the changes to the 91st Academy Awards telecast. In the E-mail, he revealed the four categories that would not be revealed live on this year’s program, a change that was first hinted at in August. One of the categories was expected, the other three were not.
Bailey noted that Cinematography, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling and Live Action Short will be tape delayed this year. That means the awards will be handed out during the commercial breaks and then incorporated into the telecast at a later time.
Bailey is a member of the Cinematography branch.
In the correspondence, he noted, “And, with the help of our partners at ABC, we also will stream these four award presentations online for our global fans to enjoy, live, along with our audience. Fans will be able to watch on Oscar.com and on the Academy’s social channels. The live stream is a first for our show, and will help further awareness and promotion of these award categories.”
What that means exactly is unclear. How ABC and the Academy will direct people to see the winners online and then switch back to the live broadcast seems problematic at best. Or, more likely, the complete presentations will eventually be released online later.
Additionally, Bailey confirmed the four branches taking one for the team will rotate out every year and that these four categories will all be exempt next year.
His E-mail continued to stress “viewing patterns for the Academy Awards are changing quickly in our current multi-media world, and our show must also evolve to successfully continue promoting motion pictures to a worldwide audience” and their goal to “keep the show to three hours.”
As I’ve noted previously, ABC has done a wonderful job of panicking Bailey and the Academy’s board of governors about the show’s performance when ratings across the board continue to decline. Moreover, ABC’s focus on their own star Jimmy Kimmel as the host of the last two low-rated telecasts hasn’t helped either. The network also hasn’t necessarily improved their marketing efforts for this year’s program although they clearly thought they would be able to sell it around Kevin Hart.
It will be curious to see what the rank and file membership think of these categories not being handed out on the air. Especially if the show still goes over three hours. It’s one thing to see the short categories pushed to the side, it’s another to see only one of them not getting airtime while key filmmaking crafts such as cinematography, editing and hair and makeup are not instead. It’s clear the Academy and ABC believe keeping the shorts allows for the opportunity for blockbusters such as “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Black Panther” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” to win. Of course, no one will know any of those talented professionals, but, it’s something, right?
At least we can all look forward to the year Foreign Language Film is announced in a montage. The billions of viewers around the world will love that.
The 91st Academy Awards will be mostly announced live on Feb. 24 on ABC at 5 PM PT, 8 PM ET.