Oscar Move Could Make for Crowded Holidays

Moving the Oscars to January, which the Academy admits its considering, would have dramatic repercussions on voters, studios and other awards shows

The Academy is considering a move that would alter release schedules, turn the holiday season into a nonstop movie marathon for conscientious members, and tick off every other awards show in town.

The idea of moving the Academy Awards to the end of January, which AMPAS admits was discussed at Tuesday night’s Board of Governors meeting, is not a new one. Ever since the glut of competing awards shows began to clutter the calendar between the first of the year and the Oscars, the Academy has been trying to accelerate its schedule so as not to seem like old news by the time it takes place.

The Academy’s executive director, Bruce Davis, has grumbled in the past that AMPAS has been “awfully polite” about waiting while other awards shows take place; that’s why the ceremony was moved from late March into late February in 2004. 

Julia Roberts“Every year it seemed like there was a new set of film awards in ahead of us,” said Davis. “Everybody still concedes that we're the most important ones – but in terms of expecting the wide public to get excited, if you've seen Julia Roberts win that award three other times before Oscar night, it's hard to go ‘Wow!’ And that's what was – what is – happening.”

If the move into February gave Academy members less time to see all the competing films, a move into January would make the time crunch even more dramatic. 

A slightly shortened voting period would require nominations to be announced immediately after the first of the year; or even the last week of the previous year. That means nominating ballots would have to be mailed out just after Thanksgiving, before many holiday films had even been released. Academy members who wanted to keep up with films in contention would need to watch films religiously during the entire holiday season, when Hollywood often slows down and people go out of town.

It also means that studios wanting to try the last-film-out strategy once used to great effect by Harvey Weinstein would have to time things carefully. A film like “Avatar,” which didn’t screen until early December and didn’t send out screener DVDs until the middle of the month, could be badly disadvantaged if it didn’t have the heat of that release.

As for other awards shows – well, there just aren’t enough weekends on the calendar for the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Movie Awards and all the guilds to stake out their turf.  Some would invariably move into December, which would make it even harder for voters to keep up.  

For now, though, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams – the stars of “Blue Valentine,” which is getting a Dec. 31, 2010, release from the Weinstein Co. – don’t have to worry. Next year’s Oscar show is already set for Feb. 27, and the earliest any change could take effect is 2012.

(Photo courtesy of AMPAS)