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(Credit: Academy Awards)

Film

Moving with the times: How to make the Oscars appeal to a modern audience

@Russellisation

For 93 years the Academy Awards have been seen as the glittering evidence for Hollywood’s cinematic supremacy, taking in film stars from across the world to pat themselves on the back for another successful year for the industry. However, whilst the ceremony used to bring in a regular haul of viewers on television, in recent years this number has gradually declined, with audiences clearly less interested in the transparent, self-congratulatory event than they were in the past.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why the iconic awards show has seen such a dramatic decrease in viewership over the years, particularly as, back in 2014, the Oscar’s enjoyed one of its most-viewed ceremonies, with 43.7 million people watching worldwide. Since the eight-year-old ceremony, the awards show has seen consistent commercial failure, typified by the most recent version that only saw 9.85 million viewers tune in.

Becoming the least viewed Oscars ceremony of all time, the reason for the Academy Awards’ failure in 2021 was likely due to the coronavirus pandemic which meant that many films included on the list, no one had the chance to see. Though there have been many other problems that the awards show has had to navigate in the 21st century, with diversity issues and the rise of Netflix being just two, let’s look into how the Oscars can modernise to appeal to a new Generation Z.

How to make the Oscars appeal to a modern audience:

Diversity and Representation

With an ageing, predominantly white board of voting members, the Oscars have long been criticised for their lack of representation in their stale, non-diverse ranks, with The Golden Globes and the Baftas also criticised for such an outdated approach to modern cinema. 

As the most important awards ceremony, the Oscars should lead the charge for a more diverse voting board by ripping up their status quo and reestablishing a brand new voting team that better represents the diversity of the contemporary world. Better representation for the Academy Awards not only allows a more diverse range of films to be seen by more people but it would also support the legitimacy of an establishment who has been seen as archaic, stiff and outdated in recent years. 

New Categories

For a while now the Academy has considered adding more modern categories to the awards ceremony, famously proposing a ‘Best Popular Film’ category in 2018 that was quickly scrapped after prompt backlash. 

With the meteoric rise of the popularity of television in the past decade or so, we would propose that the Oscars embraced the small screen with several TV specific awards including ‘Best Television Series’. Such television actors would not be limited to ‘television’ awards either, unlike the Golden Globes, making TV as important as cinema in the context of the Academy Awards, well-reflecting the reality of contemporary media. 

(Credit: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.)

Cut the fanfare 

Long being recognised as the most exclusive and stylish event in cinema, the Oscars have become known as an event made for the elite, rather than for the general audiences who support their livelihood. 

It’s time to cut the fanfare and make the ceremony more accessible to the viewer, an act that starts with dramatically reducing the length of the event that can often go on for over three hours. Putting this into practise would be very simple, with plenty of unnecessary formalities being followed throughout the night in addition to several irrelevant performances, such as when Eminem performed ‘Lose Yourself’ in 2020. 

Shift it forward

Quite why an event that celebrates the best films of the previous year takes place in March of the following year, we’re not too sure, but the fact remains that by the time the Oscars roll around, audiences have already forgotten the previous year of cinema. 

This change may be down to the pace of modern trends in media, in which there is seemingly no time at all between one trend and the next. In this ever-changing world of content supported by social media companies such as TikTok, the Oscars must modernise in order to stay relevant, with the event coming three months too late. Move the Academy Awards to December and suddenly they would see a new lease of life. 

(Credit: ©A.M.P.A.S.)

Embrace streaming services

Netflix, Amazon, Apple and the like have been the noisy neighbours of Hollywood for too long, with the stiff, traditional movie industry too stubborn to accept the existence and popularity of such modern innovations. 

To stay relevant, the Oscars should stream their ceremony on such platforms and should also seek for all major nominations to be available to watch on these streaming services long before the ceremony is due to air. When audiences have watched a particular film they are far more likely to tune in for the awards ceremony it is included in, with evidence for this being in 2020 when the Academy Awards saw its lowest ever viewership; the very same year when the coronavirus pandemic meant far few films were seen in general.