What Has The Motion Picture Academy Wrought In the Pursuit of TV Ratings?
More in the NY Times today about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences move to increase the number of Best Picture nominees from 5 to 10.
The move wasn’t about movies because the academy, in spite of its name, is not in the movie business: it is in the television business. The lion’s share of its revenue is derived from the glittering annual television show. And in the last 10 years, the Oscars has lost millions of viewers and may no longer merit the premium advertisers have been asked to pay.
But in attempting to juice up the TV ratings and with them TV advertising revenue, the Academy may have some secondary consequences like even more obscure, arty films being nominated that are unlikely to draw the more casual viewers the telecast needs.
But who is to say that the academy, granted double the number of slots, will not be inclined to drill deeper into specialized movies rather than cast wider nets that might snare a blockbuster? Sure, if there were 10 nominations last year, “Wall-E” might have made the cut, but so, too, might “Frozen River” and “The Visitor,” two tiny movies with small but fervent followings.
And the most interesting consequence to me is the possibility that with 10 potential Best Picture vote getters, that theoretically only 10%+1 vote could determine the winner (as opposed to 20%+1 in the past).
The new math created by the doubling of best-picture possibilities while every other category stays at five means that a film will need to persuade 10 percent of the voting academy plus one more person that it was the best movie of the year. Niches could continue to rule, with smallish academy guilds like art directors, or special constituencies like British members of the academy, pushing through a particular movie crush that had left many others unmoved. The winners could well be cinematic gems like “The Hurt Locker,” but not crowd-pleasers like “The Hangover.”
All in pursuit of the grail of TV ratings and advertising!