In an effort to streamline the often-bloated Oscars ceremony to three hours, the motion picture academy declared last August that it would present a handful of unspecified categories during commercial breaks at this year’s show.
In a letter to the group’s members Tuesday, academy President John Bailey revealed the four awards that will not be presented as part of the live broadcast on Feb. 24: cinematography, film editing, live action short, and makeup and hairstyling.
Though the move marks a break from decades of tradition, Bailey insisted that the academy is “still honoring the achievements of all 24 awards on the Oscars,” noting that the winners’ speeches would be edited into a later point in the telecast and that the four awards will be live-streamed in their entirety on Oscar.com, a first for the ceremony.
When the academy’s board of governors approved the plan, many inside and outside the organization complained that it would inevitably diminish the stature of whichever awards were omitted from the broadcast.
Indeed, as the news of which categories would be cut hit social media Tuesday, some immediately blasted the idea.
“This is a failure of stewardship, a failure of nerve, a failure of producing, a failure to understand television, a failure of network custody of the Oscars, and a failure of Academy governance,” film journalist Mark Harris wrote on Twitter.
But in his email, Bailey, a cinematographer, argued that the decision – made by the academy’s leadership in conjunction with its various branches – was necessary as the group tries to reverse steadily declining ratings for its all-important Oscar telecast, which hit an all-time low last year.
“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,” he wrote. “This has been our core mission since we were established 91 years ago — and it is the same today."
In future years, Bailey said, four to six other categories will be selected on a rotating basis to be presented during commercial breaks. The four awards omitted from the live televised broadcast this year will be guaranteed slots in 2020.
While plans for this year’s show — the first presented without a host since 1989 — have been kept tightly under wraps, Bailey confirmed in his letter that the show will include performances of all five nominees for the original song Oscar. The In Memoriam segment will feature a performance by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under conductor Gustavo Dudamel.
“Buckle up,” Bailey wrote. “We are committed to presenting a show which we all will be proud of.”
The full text of Bailey’s letter follows:
Dear Fellow Academy Members,
After months of anticipation and much talk, I’d like to address a topic that’s close to me.
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. This has been our core mission since we were established 91 years ago—and it is the same today.
As you may remember, last summer the Academy’s Board of Governors committed to airing a three-hour show. I want to reiterate however, that all 24 Academy Award-winning presentations will be included in the broadcast. We believe we have come up with a great way to do this, and keep the show to three hours.
While still honoring the achievements of all 24 awards on the Oscars, four categories—Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling – will be presented during commercial breaks, with their winning speeches aired later in the broadcast.
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.
The executive committees of six branches generously opted-in to have their awards presented in this slightly edited timeframe for this year’s show, and we selected four. In future years, four to six different categories may be selected for rotation, in collaboration with the show producers. (This year’s categories will be exempted in 2020.)
The Academy Awards honors the year’s best films and filmmakers. It is an international show, filled with great emotion, and (we hope) stirring acceptance speeches. This year, in addition to performances of all five nominated songs, the show will feature Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic playing during In Memoriam, as part of their own centennial celebration.
So, buckle up! We are committed to presenting a show which we all will be proud of.