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Oscars End 2020 with a Whimper

Awards were given and few cared

This year’s ceremony had the lowest viewership rate.
Photo courtesy of Jose Manuel Mazintosh via Flickr

The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, have long loomed large in the Hollywood landscape. More than WGA awards, SAG awards, or BAFTAs, they have been seen as the authoritative awards, indicative not only of the best the film industry has to offer, but also as the direction it’s moving in. The Oscars are the gold standard, even more golden than the Globes. 

It was a long time coming, but this last Sunday the 2020 Oscars were finally held, albeit with a pushed date and by pushing away homeless people (the awards were partially held in Union Station Los Angeles, cleared of resident homeless people by the LAPD). The celebrities were back, ready to give each other awards for their work on all types of films: dramas, dramas with some comedy, and dramas based on true stories. 

The Oscars was the biggest night in Hollywood in over a year; but outside of Hollywood, it hardly made a dent. 

According to Nielsen, the Oscars viewership on April 25 was the lowest of any time in the modern era, with the audience dropping by 58% as compared to the previous ceremony. Only 9.9 million people tuned in, and more striking, the steepest drop was among adults 18-49. It didn’t matter who walked the red carpet or what their speeches were about, most people just couldn’t be bothered. 

Of course, a myriad of factors went into the low ratings. The pushed night may have lost relevance, the extra two months between 2020 and the ceremony allowing people to lose interest. Perhaps the general public didn’t like the films nominated. The most likely contributor, however, is much more problematic for the Academy. Few people tuned in, perhaps, because few people watched the films. 

Independent companies viewing streaming trends have noted that, on Netflix, films like Mank and The Trial of the Chicago Seven hardly were seen, especially when compared to the typical Adam Sandler comedy put out by the studio. More so than any previous year, popular movies were not acknowledged.  There was no nomination for a film like Joker, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, or Black Panther. The Oscars this year were truly by Hollywood, and for it, too. 

The question remains, is the low viewership of the films on the audience for not seeing quality content, or on the producers for making content no one wants to watch? Fifteen years ago, it was not uncommon for blockbusters to be nominated, even win, major awards. Gladiator, The Return of the King, and Argo all were huge films that won best picture. And when films like these are nominated, viewership follows. 

Nomadland, a small drama about a woman adrift in the US, her American Dream gone wrong, won Best Picture. Critics have called it moving, have praised its lush cinematography, and all around sung its praises. Perhaps it really is on broader audiences for not seeing a masterful film, and marketing departments will try new things in the future. Perhaps it was a bad idea to release a depressing, plotless film in the middle of a pandemic and think people would want to watch it. Either way, the Oscars will have to figure things out, or slip down farther in their viewership, and in turn, their relevancy. 

This is a selection from the April 28 issue. To view the full issue, visit: https://online.flippingbook.com/view/141748577/

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