Since its beginnings in 1929, the Oscars has been known as film’s biggest night of the year – but this year, viewership has completely plummeted.
The glitzy and glamorous event, which was scaled down this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, saw its viewership drop by a whopping 58% in the US.
Only 9.85million Americans watched the event to see Chloe Zhao and Nomadland triumph, compared to 23.6m in 2020, according to preliminary Nielsen numbers.
Last year’s had also been a record low at the time.
So, in a year when many of us have relied on films more than ever before, what went wrong with this year’s Oscars?
Shawn Robbins, Chief Analyst at Boxoffice Pro, told Metro.co.uk: ‘The sharp decline in Oscar viewership was very widely expected this year with very few movies having released or gained a high profile due to theatre closures.
It followed a trend experienced by other industries’ award shows, such as the Grammys, drawing smaller audiences than normal. All things being equal, next year’s Academy Awards could rebound significantly if moviegoing and studio releases continue to rebound in a significant way over the next eight to ten months.
‘The ceremony is often most popular when at least a few big box office hits are well represented in major categories, so that will also be a factor in potential ratings recovery.
‘The hosting aspect is certainly debatable. Having the right personality lead the show can attract more viewers, but the hostless option can work when well written and produced. Other elements such as musical performances and clips showcasing the nominated films add some life to the ceremony which is otherwise dominated by speeches, so those components may return next year as well.’
The pared-down ceremony
There was no doubt that this year’s ceremony would be different due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, but co-producer Steven Soderbergh attempted to make it as entertaining as possible despite that.
He insisted it would be like a movie, and for the first few minutes it was, with Regina King filmed striding to the stage in Union Station in an epic long shot, and then giving a powerful speech.
However, things very much fell off the wagon later on, with a glorified version of Name That Tune being played during the ceremony, and a seemingly rushed version of the In Memoriam segment.
In the attempt to make it as normal as possible, the organisers asked guests not to Zoom in from home, with various nominees attending from certain locations in London – but that meant Sir Anthony Hopkins, who ended up winning best actor, was not able to attend from his home in Wales.
The organisers definitely did well with what they had, but it’s got to be said that it didn’t have the same wow-factor as a standard Oscars ceremony.
The film release dates and cinema closures
One big factor of the plummeting viewership has got to be that plenty of us weren’t actually able to see the films.
While all of them were released in the US by the time of the ceremony, some hadn’t been out very long.
In the UK, neither best picture winner Nomadland, nor The Father, which Sir Anthony won best actor for, had been released.
Hardly any of them enjoyed the cinema releases they deserved either, due to many cinemas being closed for much of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Oscars season has such a different buzz when you’re able to actually view the films on the big screen and feel how the audience reacts to them.
Safe to say, it’s pretty difficult to root for the films when you haven’t been able to watch them.
The themes of the films
One controversial criticism of this year’s event was that the themes of the nominated films were very heavy.
From rape culture, which is explored in Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman (which won best adapted screenplay) to dementia in Florian Zeller’s The Father, maybe many of us are struggling to enjoy heavier films at the moment, when the world in itself feels a little dark.
All of the issues explored in the films are, of course, deeply important – but perhaps this year, people opted for something a little lighter.
The lack of host
Up until 2018, the Oscars was hosted by one individual, often a comedian.
From 2018 onwards, the ceremony has instead been focused on the celebrity presenters of the awards, with nothing really tying it together.
This year, had Regina continued her hosting duties throughout the ceremony, rather than just delivering a short speech at the beginning, maybe things would have been tied together a little more.
It’s hard to say whether the Oscars will be ‘back to normal’ next year. We’ve got our fingers crossed that the coronavirus pandemic’s disruptions to the film industry are gradually ending, and that the now expected delays to releases will be a thing of the past.
Maybe having the event back in the Dolby Theatre will help it to regain some of its magic – or maybe just being in a different set of world circumstances will re-ignite everyone’s love of film’s biggest and glitziest night of the year.
Oscars 2021 winners
Best picture: Nomadland
Best actor: Sir Anthony Hopkins (The Father)
Best supporting actor: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas And The Black Messiah)
Best actress: Frances McDormand (Nomadland)
Best supporting actress: Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari)
Best director: Chloe Zhao (Nomadland)
Best animated feature film: Soul
Best cinematography: Erik Messerschmidt (Mank)
Best film editing: Mikkel EG Nielsen (Sound Of Metal)
Best costume design: Ann Roth (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
Best original score: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste (Soul)
Best original song: Fight For You (Judas And The Black Messiah)
Adapted screenplay: The Father – Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller
Original screenplay: Promising Young Woman – Emerald Fennell
Best production design: Mank
Best make-up and hairstyling: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Best sound: Sound Of Metal
Best live-action short film: Two Distant Strangers
Best visual effects: Tenet
Best documentary feature: My Octopus Teacher
Best international feature: Another Round (Denmark)
Best animated short: If Anything Happens I Love You
Best documentary short: Colette
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