In seven years, the annual Academy Awards, celebrating the very finest achievements of cinema, will be reaching its centenary year, with nothing short of a glamorous, unprecedented ceremony to be expected. However, it would be shortsighted not to recognise the award show’s continued irrelevance under the looming threat of television. With the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards having just passed, receiving with it a flurry of social media excitement, the cinema industry must recognise how their influence is fading in order to preserve their future and ensure their centenary celebrations aren’t commemorations.
It’s a fact that fans of cinema, and the industry itself, isn’t willing to accept. Television is simply more culturally pertinent than cinema, representing the cornucopia of zeitgeist entertainment where cinema can only huff and puff. In a modern world where content is fed to audiences on a constant drip-feed, the ten-hour serial of a television series is simply more appealing than an occasional 90-minute dose of frivolous fun.
This state of affairs worsened considerably since the disastrous coronavirus pandemic where cinema was all but reduced to irrelevance whilst television thrived in the comfort of the home. As film executives were stressfully pacing their boardrooms, twiddling their sanitised hands, TV wasn’t just existing, it was thriving, with programmes like The Queen’s Gambit, The Mandolorian and Tiger King seizing the attention of audiences.
As a result, following the awards ceremony of the 73rd Primetime Emmys, Twitter is currently ablaze with conversation and debate, covering everything from Michaela Coel’s inspiring acceptance speech to the crime of Bo Burnham’s Inside walking away empty-handed (it is indeed a crime).
Whilst, of course, the Academy Awards often cause a stir online, it is rare they stir such considerable conversation, grabbing the attention of viewers for just a fleeting moment. Where were the similar social media outcries for Riz Ahmed losing out for Sound of Metal at the 93rd Academy Awards or even the tweets of celebration for Chloé Zhao’s monumental achievement for Nomadland? The Oscars no longer carry the same glitz and glamour of the past, now representing an outdated industry that ponders over the torment of yesteryear without looking to the future.
At this point in the 21st century, it is also important to note that most people are simply not interested in watching awards shows full-stop. Ratings for both the Oscars and the Emmys continue to plummet year on year, with a large majority of people willing to miss out on the event to instead simply seize the social media highlights in the morning. Such speaks to a more general disinterest in awards shows where the sheer spectacle of the event itself seems to overdo and ostracise the viewers at home who can easily see through the awards’ transparent pretence.
Perhaps the key to the preservation of such shows is, in fact, to downsize, treating the event with the same importance and attitude as an episode of Saturday Night Live, where audiences are invited into the inner circle instead of being shunned out of it. The Emmys represent a larger cultural event than the Oscars quite simply because television has become the primary source of entertainment. The glitz, the sparkle and the paparazzi’s flashing lights are no different, but the cultural accessibility of the Emmys is what helps it thrive. Without significant change, soon, the only people watching the Oscars will be the unheeding audience of the Dolby Theatre.